Spiced Apple And Blackcurrant Cupcakes With Fruit Shoot

During the summer I was challenged by Fruit Shoot to get out and about andtake part in some foraging with the little ones.

It was a great way to get the kids active and let them see how readily available fresh food packed with goodness really is.

Fruit Shoot has really taken this on board when creating their juices which are packed with real fruit, no flavours, no colouring and plenty of added vitamins.

They are really passionate about getting kids to eat well and with this in mind they created a fantastic hamper full of goodies to grow, bake and create lots of tasty, fruity recipes at home which they kingly sent to me.

The recipe that really stood out for me was the spiced apple and blackcurrant cupcakes that was devised by recipe creator-Holly Bell.

The one minor problem that we had was that there was a distinct lack of blackcurrants here so we had a little change around and substituted them for blackberries instead which worked pretty well.

Oscar had a great time getting his hands dirty and cooking up a storm.

I love getting the little ones involved in the whole process of cooking and with the addition of the blackberries it was the perfect time to recall our foraging trip.

If you fancy having a go yourself then I have left the recipe for you below, I would love to see how you get on.

Spiced Apple And Berry Cupcakes

  • 175ml oil
  • 180g muscavado sugar
  • 170g self-raising flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3 large eggs
  • 160g grated apple
  • 1/2tsp ground ginger
  • 150g of backcurrants or blackberries

Preheat the oven to 180C/has mark 4 and line a 12 hope cupcake tin with large cupcake or muffin cases.

Once the oven has preheated mix all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon until there aren’t any lumps or traces of egg yolk visible. Pay particular attention to the sugar as it can sit in lumps.

Stir through the berries carefully, spoon into cases evenly and bake for 20-25 mins until well risen and a toothpick comes out of the middle of the cupcake clean.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Opening My Eyes To Organic Living With Arla Foods

How long does it take you to get your weekly shop?

If you are anything like me my list varies very little from week to week and it’s just a grab and go, to get in and out as quickly as possible with items such as bread, eggs and milk being staples that I probably haven’t changed in years.

I’m sure that many of you are with me on this, and it wasn’t until I visited Cockhaise Farm in Sussex last week, really shifted my thoughts on the way I shop and opened my eyes up to organic, free range products.

Arriving to this beautiful farm and sitting sipping coffee on the patio could have transported you into a scene from the ‘Darling Buds Of May’ which always seemed like such an idyllic way to bring up a family although in reality I know that a farmers life is a tough one and I was here to learn exactly what goes into our everyday milk that most of us doesn’t give a second thought when buying.

Dan talked us thorough how he came to become an organic dairy farmer and his passion for his product and his herd was clear to see from the very first moment.
Dan’s dairy farm is very much a family business and the love for their animals really made it feel as if they were part of the family too.

This farm follows the ruling of organic farming by making the welfare of the animals and the environment a top priority, not using any artificial additives, preservatives or GM ingredients and fewer pesticides.

Instead the cows are allowed to graze freely as much as possible in fields full of chemical free, clover rich fields.

We got the chance to see how happy they were by going to visit the fields that honed the most adorable calves…I’m not sure what they made of a group of bloggers armed with cameras and phones galore!

From the young and happy calves we made our way to see a field full of pregnant cows and got to experience first-hand the first few fumbling steps of a calf that has literally just been born.

I was chatting to Dan’s father at the time who is also a retired organic dairy farmer who said that the birth of a calf is always special no matter how many time you experience it.

From here we made our way into the milking sheds that weren’t operational at the time but it was still amazing to see.

We had now been shown the milking process from the very beginning and it was now time to see how the beautiful product could be used and we were treated to a cookery demonstration from Ben a local chef who’s passion for organic products was just as great as Dan’s.

The demonstration was all set up in a barn with a fabulous hay barrel backdrop where Matt worked his magic on showing us how to create a Sussex smokey scotch egg that had an alternative filling of mashed potato and smoked haddock rather than the usual sausage meat, and a delectable vanilla creme brûlée that I could have sampled more than one of!

If you like the sound of these delicious recipes I have left them below for you to try yourself at home.

From the vibrancy of the colours of the egg yolks to the rich creaminess of the milk it is without a doubt there are not only benefits to the way organic food is produced but it also comes through in the product itself tenfold.

Vanilla Creme Brûlée

• 200ml Double Cream
• 100ml Arla Organic Free Range Milk
• 4 egg yolks
• 50g sugar
• 1 vanilla pod

  1. Preheat the water bath to 80C or if using the oven 140C/120 Fan.
  2. Warm the milk, cream, vanilla and sugar together in a small saucepan to 60C.
  3. In a large bowl wish together the egg yolks and sugar until thoroughly combined.
  4. Slowly whisk the warm cream and milk into the egg mixture.
  5. Pour into individual shallow jars and screw on the lids very tightly.
  6. Place the jars in the water bath to cook for 60 mins then remove from the water with tongs and cool on ice.
  7. Alternatively place in oven for 20-22 mins until just set.
  8. Once set sprinkle the surface with sugar and brûlée with a blowtorch.Allow the sugar to set for 5 mins before serving.

Sussex Smokey Scotch Eggs

• 4 medium organic eggs
• 1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus oil for deep frying
• Salt and pepper for seasoning
• 1 pint Arla Organic Free Range Milk
• 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
• 250g natural smoked haddock
• 1 bay leaf
• 200g potatoes for mashing
• 1 bunch of finely chopped dill
• 119g High Weald smoked cheddar chopped or grated
• 1 banana shallot
• 1 clove of garlic
• 1/2 leek
• 1 stick of celery
• 1/2 carrot
• 3oz butter
• 3oz plain flour
• 330g flour
• 1 organic medium egg
• 200ml Arla Organic Free Range Milk
• 300g or packet of breadcrumbs

1.Boil seasoned water and then add the eggs, turn down to a simmer for 5 mins for a soft boiled egg, chill in cold water and put aside.

2.Add the smoked haddock, nutmeg and bay leaf to the milk and place in a water bath for 25 mins at 45C – if not using a water bath place the ingredients in a saucepan and dinner for 5 mins.

3.Remove haddock and save both for later

4. Peel and chop 200g of potato and boil for 15-20 mins, once cooked gently mash.

5.Meanwhile finely dice shallots, garlic, leek, celery and carrot. Sauté in oil for 10-15 mins, season to taste.

6.Boil seasoned water and then add the eggs, turn down to a simmer for 5 mins for a soft boiled egg, chill in cold water and put aside.

7.Add the smoked haddock, nutmeg and bay leaf to the milk and place in a water bath for 25 mins at 45C – if not using a water bath place the ingredients in a saucepan and dinner for 5 mins.

8. Remove haddock and save both later.

9.Peel and chop 200g of potato and boil for 15-20 mins, once cooked gently mash.

10.Meanwhile finely dice shallots, garlic, leek, celery and carrot. Sauté in oil for 10-15 mins, season to taste.

11.Peel the boiled eggs and dust in seasoned flour.

12.When the casing mixture is cool delete the into 4 portions and wrap around wash egg enclosing it completely. Chill for at least one hour to ensure it keeps its shape.

13.In the meantime prepare your station to breadcrumb the eggs.

14.You will need three shallow trays, one for the seasoned flour, one for the beaten egg and one for the breadcrumbs.

15.Firstly take the encased eggs one. Y one and put into the seasoned flour, making sure it is well coated.

16.Shake off any access flour and pass the food into the beaten egg, again making sure it is well coated.

17.Shake off any access and finally pass the food into the breadcrumbs again making sure it’s well coated.

18.Tap the food firmly to ensure the breadcrumbs are well attached and remove the crumbs into a clean plate or tray.

19.Now deep fry the completed eggs at 160C until golden brown.

*collaborated post

Mini Ninja At Yo Sushi – Boxpark

I am very lucky that all of my children bar one are open to try pretty much any food that they are introduced to.

This has opened them up to experiencing a wide variety of different cuisines with sushi coming pretty high up on their list of loves.

Trying to make it for ourselves though is something even I haven’t attempted so when we were asked along to Yo Sushi at Boxpark, Croydon I was as excited as the children!

On a Tuesday and Wednesday at 11am during the summer holidays Yo Sushi is running their Mini Ninja Sushi making masterclass aimed at children aged 5-12.

Being as unorganised as always I hadn’t looked at the recommended age range and in fact went along with Oscar(3) and Frankie(5) and Izzy(11).

Our super friendly Sushi maestro sat the children down and got them kitted out in their hats and gloves in preparation to get creating.

They were all given instructions sheets on how to make Maki, Salmon Nigi and Crab Handrolls.

These weren’t neeeded as the children were shown step by step how to make each piece and there was plenty of hands on help if neeeded.

Usually the attention span of my children is limited to cupcakes but amazingly they sat through the whole hour without a fidget or a moan.

Once their boxes were filled with yummy sushi made by their own fair hands there was a quick game of who could move the edamame beans the quickest which was great to burn off a bit of energy.

At the end of the session they were awarded a certificate for all their hard word and given a bag to take home their sushi and the rolling mats they used so they could have a go again at home.

My lot however couldn’t wait to get home to eat so we sat for a while eating there creations whilst I sampled some delightful pork buns that I will certainly be returning again for.

There is still time to get you litttle ones booked in at several different locations around the country and it has certainly come highly recommended from us!
 *Collaborated post 

The Polish Bakery:Review

There was a big knock at the the other day which lead to a cheery man at  clutching a bag of goodies from The Polish Bakery.

I have to admit I am not very knowledgeable when it comes to Polish cuisine so I wasn’t to sure what to expect in my parcel.

The Polish Bakery has been running since 2003 and produces handmade bread, buns, rolls, cake, doughnuts and even birthday cakes with authentic recipes and ingredients directly from Poland.

My parcel included a loaf of their premium white bread, rye bread with prunes and a delicious cheesecake.

Frankie who has multiple allergies was over the moon that he could eat the rye bread and claimed the whole loaf to himself!

It was a perfect combination of ingredients and the juiciness of the prunes added a really good soft  texture to a drier style of bread.

The premium bread was beautifully soft and kept for much longer than most fresh breads.

I saved the best for last with the delectable cheesecake. There was in fact a bit of an argument over the last slice!

The cheesecake looked more like a tiramisu and was a delicious creamy cake with a delicate chocolate taste.

I didn’t imagine their products to be that different to the style in British bakeries but I was very pleasantly surprised and will certainly be going back for more!
*collaborated post

Jamie’s Italian Guilford:Review

I am a little ashamed to say that even though I have been a huge fan of Jamie Oliver since his ‘Naked Chef’ days I have never set foot in to one of his restaurants.

His immense passion for food and will to share this with every walk of life is one of the things I love about him and I know this love and passion will be passed into all his restaurants.

We were recently asked to go along to Jamie’s Guilford branchto see what we though which was a very exciting prospect for me.

A short drive into Guilford lead us to a quirky shaped building that homed Jamie’s Italian.

We were shown upstairs to our table in the brightly coloured restaurant that had had an industrial feel softened by glimpses of rustic Italy.

We had the youngest two with us which is always a challenge when eating out as their attention span leaves a lot to be desired.

Luckily as soon as we were seated the boys were given activity sheets and fantastic viewfinders that they could chose their meal from…these were a hit with the big kids too!

The children’s menu was a great mix of the usual suspects mixed with dishes such as fish stew and gnocchi which is really refreshing to see as not all children like a plate of beige food for every meal!

Oscar went for the baby beefburger which was served with a portion of sweet potato fries and a delicious salad.

Frankie had a bit of a harder time in choosing as his multiple allergies were a little hard to cater for, but our waitress worked round them and was able to alter the happy chicken lollipops that were also served with sweet potato fries and much to Frankie’s excitement a salad in a jar that he could shake himself to cover with dressing.

 

They still had plenty of room for pudding and Frankie was extremely happy with his strawberry and mango lollipop whist Oscar went for the more indulgent warm chocolate brownie that much to his delight was topped with popcorn.

 

Darren and I went for the Super Lunch which is a great value set menu where you can chose from a good variety of dishes and have either two or three courses.

The greediness in me went for the three courses while Darren only opted for two.

Pate is on of my favourites but I can be a little fussy with it. I wasn’t disappointed and the creamy chicken liver pate that covered the crispy bruschetta and made for the perfect combination.

I’m not normally a burger fan but the Gennaro’s Chicken Club caught my eye and I was really glad I went for it.

The soft brioche roll was filled with succulent chicken, crispy pancetta, spicy mayo, rocket and juicy tomato.

If you are a follower of my blog and have read my restaurant reviews you will know that my husband is a creature of habit and calamari and steak are choices pretty much every time we dine out.

Jamie’s Italian had a little twist on the usual calamari and was instead a selection of battered fish and squid that have been coated in a delicately spiced fennel flour and served with a sharp garlic and lemon aioli.

The steak was a little different too as it had first been marinated then served with a garlic butter, crispy fries and a beautiful purple slaw that set off the meal wonderfully.

The children full and happily playing I endulged in Jamie’s favourite lemon polenta cake which was served with cream and a fruit coulis.

The texture the polenta gave the cake was a good change to a traditional sponge style recipe but I could have done with a little bit more of a lemony kick.

We all thoroughly enjoyed our first experience of Jamie’s Italian from the warm welcome to the delicious food.

I think the real pull for me though was the attention to the children’s menu that was not only vast and full of variety but allowed the children to get hands on with their choices and preparation of the meal which I always find is key to encouraging them to eat and try new things.

If you have been inspired to try Jamie’s Italian out for yourself then from now until the 31st August one child eat free with every paying adult so it’s the perfect time to try it out.

Which Hair Treatments Work Best?

Over the years my hair has become thinner and thinner. I have tried to cut it into a shorter style over the past few years in an attempt to make it look thicker but this really hasn’t had much of an impact for me.

Hair loss is in fact a huge problem for so many people and it can stem from so many different causes, some of which I have listed below:

  • Physical and emotiona stress
  • Lack of protein
  • Male pattern baldness 
  • Pregnancy 
  • Medication
  • Overstyling 
  • Female hormonal changes 
  • Hereditary 

The list could probably go on and as you can see with so many causes it is hard to pinpoint where exactly the problem stems from and even if you can some of these things can be hard to change.

However their can be things we can change and try in a bid to improve or hault these changes:

  • Changes from the inside – we can change our diets to make them rich in protein, iron, zinc and B12 to nourish our bodies and help them to grow good hair.
  • Massage – this is a favourite of mine and I love giving my hair an extra long massage when I am applying my shampoo to promote blood flow.
  • Supplements – supplements are another way of feeding the hair from the inside and there are plenty in the market they are taliored specifically to promote hair growth. Finasteride from Online Doctor LloydsPharmacy are a great example of this.
  • Put down the tongs – limited the use of styling AIDS such a hair driers and tongs will keep your hair safe from the heat which can cause a lot of damge.
  • Creating a thicker look – Human hair wigs for woman are another way to help create the fuller or longer hair that you are looking for.

Is hair loss a problem for you and do you have any tips on improving it?
*collaborated post

Pizza, Prosecco and Live Music At Pizza Express

Pizza Express is always top of our list when it come to eating out as a family.

Their lively restaurants and good food make the perfect combination for us and brings us back time and time again.

It is however very rare for me to visit without the children, so when I was asked to come along to the newly refurbished Pizza Express Live in Holborn with a group of lovely bloggers then I was very excited to see what kind of a night I had in store.

At the far end of a extremely busy restaurant I spotted a table with lots of ladies and lots of cameras and I knew they was were I needed to be heading.

After a full on day of running around town this evening was just what I needed to relax and catch up with some familiar and some not so faces.

We were soon introduced to the manager who had a fun evening planned with us starting by getting a little messy!

Pizza making is something I have looked on from afar in Pizza Express, leaving it down to the children to get creative, but it was going to be my turn to don the white hat and get stuck in.

We were talked though each and every step and I can tell you forming a pizza base is way harder than it looks!

Bases swirled and twirled we added our topping and whilst they were cooking we had some time to chat over one…or two glasses of Prosecco!

So far the evening had been a lot of fun but I was still none the wiser as to why this beautiful new restaurant had the addition of the word ‘Live’ to it.

This all became apparent when we were shown to the middle of the restaurant and lead down the metal swirling staircase to the basement into an area that I would never have imagined seeing in a Pizza Express restaurant.

It was more like an über cool city members club with dark wood and plush velvet, sutble mood lighting and delicate glass wear.

This fabulous new area is set to be the place to come for top live entertainment 7 nights a week as of September.

Acts such as Martin Kemp and Mica Paris are a few faces set to take to this stage along with a whole host of other familiar names.

For me this evening really turned my thoughts on Pizza Express dining on their head and from having a very narrow minded outlook on what they have to offer I can now see that this would make a superb venue for a date night or a night out with friends.

I am hoping to have another visit in September to see the venue in full swing and soak up the fabulous atmosphere that I know it’s going to to create.  

*collaborated post

Everdine:Healthy Eating Straight To Your Door

We are halfway through the year now and I’m sure that the majority of those healthy eating resolutions fell by the wayside months ago.

I know that mine have been pretty on and off and I have to say that aside from my terrible lack of willpower a large part of me failing is due to lack of preparation and misjudgement of portion sizes.

Being on the go continually means that sometimes I don’t get myself together enough to prepare a healthy, home cooked meal and I find myself reaching into the freezer for the old faithful nuggets and chips.

Don’t get me wrong the children are always over the moon when this happens but is really not good for my waistline and tends to then lead to the whole ‘well I’ve eaten badly so I will carry on’ attitude and before I know out I’ve packed away a whole pack of biscuits!

What I need is something nutritious and filling that I can prepare in a short space of time, so when Everdine got in touch with me to try out their home delivery meal service I was egar to find out how they would measure up.

Their healthy and nutrious meals are created by Mitchelin star chefs who go to great lengths to prepare gourmet meals that can be stored in the freezer to take out as and when needed and ready in around 10 mins.

You simply need to choose from a 8 or 12 meal option that can be delivered weekly or monthly and your delivery arrives to your door in a sheep’s wool instillation to make sure it as perfect as possible for you.

 

I had a mixture of classic and vegetarian options from things such as pulled beef ragu spaghetti and paneer of sweet potato kofte biryini to rainbow vegetable pad Thai and Cajun blackened salmon.


I’m ordinarily not a fan of microwave meals as they are full of rubbish and you end up with an unrecognisable lump that you need to pour into the plate.

Everdine meals however are full of flavour, and beautifully presented. They are in fact the closest to home cooked I have ever seen in a ready meal.

They were packed full or flavour and were surprisingly filling with a burst of flavour in each mouthful.


I used my meals over the course of a couple of weeks and stuck to healthy meals for the rest of the time plus regular exercise and managed to loose just over half a stone.

At just over £6 a meal I will certainly be keeping a stock of these in the freezer for those last minute meals in a bid to keep this weight loss up.

*I was given these meals for the purpose of this review and they are all my own, honest opinions.

Learning To Cook With Jamie Oliver’s Hotpoint Teaching Kitchen

How many of you cook your evening meal from scratch every night?

I would hazard a guess that it won’t be many of you and as research from Jamie’s Ministry Of Food shows this sadly the case for many of us.

In fact a huge 1 in 5 adults rely on takeaways and convenience food due to a lack of knowledge in cooking skills and a whopping 1 in 10 have never cooked from scratch.

For me one of my favourite lessons at school was home economics and was actually the only A I got at GCSE.

It was an outlet away from the more academic subjects that I never thrived in and it certainly gave me a great knowledge of food preparation and nutrition that has always stayed with me.

Sadly in many schools this is not on the timetable at all now and 7 in 10 people feel the rise in takeaways and convience food has been greatly affected by this.

This makes for a vicious cycle of parents then not having the knowledge to pass down to their children creating a nation with little knowledge on food at all.

I was shocked to find that 1 in 5 can’t boil an egg, a quarter struggle to cook rice and a third of the people asked lack the skills to correctly cut an onion.

For these reasons Jamie’s Ministry Of Food has got together with Hotpoint to create a fantastic teaching kitchen that is setting up in the towns where obesity and diet related illnesses are at a high.

I was asked along to have a lesson at the truck earlier this week in Selhurst, South London.

I arrived in the car park of Crystal Palace Football Club which seemed like a pretty strange place to be learning to cook.

The truck was nothing liked I expected and was in fact a spectacularly kitted out set up with high tech appliances from Hopoint and plenty of natural light to make for a fantastic area to learn new skills.


Although I would say I’m a pretty confident cook my repertoire has become pretty limited due to cooking for a large family with limited time.

To be honest the majority of my meals are prepared from scratch but I’m a bit of a one pot fan and I was hoping this lesson would open my eyes to creating something new for the family.

Any nerves I had about starting the session were soon quashed when the super friendly chefs introduced themselves and started the afternoon.

Our mission was to prepare a beautiful dish of salmon teriyaki from scratch which is one of my favourite meals but something I’ve not tried to create mysel.

Each step was shown to us and then as we went through the process ourselves there was plenty of experts on hand to help out at any stage.


I learned some great tips on food wastage and an entirely new way to cook rice that I will be trying out at home!



Children as young as 7 can go along to take part and I think this would be the perfect way to introduce little ones to the exciting world of cooking and sparking off something that could turn into a real passion for them.

The truck is in Selhurst until 16th June and you can book your slot HERE for free.

It is then moving onto Bristol, Middlesborough, Sunderland and Liverpool.

There is then an exciting opportunity for one community to win the chance to have the truck come to your town.

All you need to do is post a picture on social media showing members of your local community such as a youth group or scout troop holding wooden spoons.

Simply let them know the name of your town and why they are deserving and is the hashtag #cookforchange.

I would love to know if you decide to visit the truck and if you do what you think!

Kiddie Free Evening At FEGO

A while ago now I went along to FEGO in Banstead with Frankie and Oscar to see what they had to offer in the way of family dining.

We were hugely impressed with everything they had to offer…so much so that when I was asked to come back and sample their evening menu I couldn’t wait.

I’m sure I’m not the only parent who craves a little adult time away from the daily routine of taking care of the family, in fact I think it is important to take a break from it all, give yourself a little headspace and enjoy some adult conversation.

I hadn’t had a night out with my younger sister since Christmas so we were both really looking forward to some uninterrupted chit chat over dinner.

We arrived at FEGO and were taken to our table where our super friendly waitress guided me through the drinks menu and helped to pick out a cocktail she thought would take my fancy.

I went for a pornstar martini that I sipped on whilst we perused the menu.

It was a tough decision and I flitted from burgers to salads, pizzas and steaks until I finally settled on a succulent piece of salmon coated in lemon and olive oil served with a sweet potato side salad that was covered with a whole grain mustard dressing.

My sister went with the veggie curry that was a gorgeous combination of cauliflower, spinach, sweet potato, aubergine and butternut squash in a mildly, creamy curry sauce served with fluffy basmati rice and a really different mango salsa that made a pleasant change from the usual chutney.

The desert menu was then shown to us and although every part of me wanted to opt for the fruit plater to save my waistline, my willpower was not strong enough to resist the sharing platter of mini puddings.


This was probably not the best choice for sisters who still have that childlike tendency to argue over who has had the biggest portion!

Each and every pudding was a taste sensation with something different with each mouthful.

The lemon posset gave you that bit of sharpness, the chocolate brownies and ice cream were there to satisfy the love for chocolate and the pasteis de nata filled the want for something creamy.

But my favourite had to be the peppermint crisp pudding that was a combination hard to describe so I will leave it down to you to try for yourself.

Pleasantly full we remained at the table and chatted for ages with another cheeky cocktail.


At no point did we feel pressured to leave and were more than happy taking in the great atmosphere, relaxing and making the most of some rare time out.

Never before have I visited a restaurant at serval different times of day and have been able to enjoy completly different yet equally as wonderful experiences.

FEGO really have covered every base and I have to say that evening dining has been my favourite experience and one that will be having me coming back time and time again.
*Collaborated Post