Friday, 21 June 2013

No-Bake Mini Desserts

No-Bake Mini Desserts
If you're hosting a bbq, party or buffet and catering for a large number of people, make up a batch of these really simple mini-puddings in advance and refrigerate until needed.

You can buy packs of mini plastic shot 'glasses' from pound stores and supermarkets.

Serves 10 (1 of each dessert per person) - double or treble the recipe to feed more!

For the basic mix
  • 250g/10 oz lighter/reduced fat mascarpone 
  • 200ml/8fl oz double cream
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
Lightly whip the cream.
Add the remaining ingredients and lightly whisk together.
Divide between two bowls...

  • 50g/2 oz amaretti or chocolate chip biscuits/cookies, roughly crushed
  • 1 tsp coffee granules dissolved in 2 tbsp boiling water, allowed to cool and mixed with 1 tbsp Amaretto or Tia Maria
  • 1 tbsp Bailey's liqueur
  • Crushed chocolate flake/chocolate chips/drinking chocolate powder to top
Evenly divide the crushed biscuits between 10 small shot glasses.
Drizzle around 1 tsp of the cold coffee/liqueur mixture over the biscuits in each glass.
Mix the Bailey's into one half of the cream cheese mixture.
Using a teaspoon, carefully spoon the mixture into each glass.
Top with crushed chocolate flake/chocolate chips or drinking chocolate powder.
Chill until needed.

Alternative:  For an alcohol-free version, swap the liqueurs for cold strong coffee.

Deconstructed Strawberry Shortcake
  • 50g/2 oz shortbread biscuits, roughly crushed
  • 100g/4oz ripe strawberries, half diced finely, half sliced
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
Mix the vanilla extract into the remaining half of the cream cheese mixture.
Lightly fold in the diced strawberries and crushed biscuits.
Using a teaspoon, carefully spoon the mixture into 10 small shot glasses.
Top with the sliced strawberries.
Chill until needed.

Alternative: Swap the shortbread biscuits for crushed meringue to make Eton Mess.

Not suitable for freezing. Eat within 24 hours of making.

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Monday, 17 June 2013

Seabrook Crisps - a review and giveaway

I fondly remember Seabrook Crisps from my childhood. Back then, they were the only crinkle-cut crisps around, and weren't widely available, so they seemed that bit more special than other crisps! Seabrook's are now stocked in all major supermarkets and have recently been repackaged and re-formulated to make all varieties both vegetarian and gluten-free.
Seabrook Crisps have launched their new packaging and the slogan: Lovingly Made in Yorkshire. The new packs introduce a modern design with imagery to promote Seabrook’s Yorkshire heritage, illustrating why it makes such tasty crisps.
My family and I willingly volunteered to try out the varieties in the core range: Sea Salted, Sea Salt & Vinegar, Cheese and Onion, Prawn Cocktail and Beefy (the Sea Salted, Sea Salt & Vinegar varieties are vegan). All the flavours were deliciously crisp and crunchy, although not as highly flavoured as I remember them (probably due to the absence of msg and other artificial additives, which Seabrook have removed from all of their products!). My favourite flavour is still prawn cocktail, which really reminds me of sitting in a pub garden as a child, with a warm glass of lemonade and a packet of Seabrook Crisps! 

You can find Seabrook Crisps on Facebook and Twitter.

One lucky reader can win a mixed box (approx. 48 bags) of crisps from Seabrook's core range. All you need to do to enter, is fill in the Rafflecopter form and leave me a comment telling me your favourite Seabrook crisp flavour. You can earn extra entries by liking Facebook pages, but this isn't compulsory. UK only.
Prize drawn ends at midnight 27th June 13.

Integrity Statement
I received some free samples of Seabrook crisps to review and a box to giveaway. I did not receive payment, and was not required to write a positive review in return. The views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family.

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Friday, 14 June 2013

Super Simple Peach and Strawberry Smoothie

fruit smoothie in a glass
Shop bought smoothies can be quite expensive, so I wanted to come up with an economy (plus vegan and banana-free!) version for this months' No Croutons Required challenge over at Tinned Tomatoes. Unfortunately, I didn't realise that I was supposed to include a vegetable in my recipe (sorry Jac!), but as so many people confuse fruit and vegetables anyway (which incidentally is a pet peave of mine!), I'm hoping she'll let me get away with this minor omission!

Using store's own-brand tinned peaches, fruit juice and strawberries, this recipe costs around £1.50 for 750ml.

Serves 2-4 depending on portion/glass size.
  • 1 (400g/14oz) tin of peaches in fruit juice
  • 100g/4oz strawberries, washed, hulled and chopped into quarters
  • 250ml/1 cup orange juice, chilled - a little more if you prefer a thinner smoothie

Tip the tinned peaches and the orange juice into a plastic container. Freeze for around 1-2 hours until icy but not frozen solid; this step is optional, but gives you a lovely, chilled smoothie/slushie.
Spoon this mixture into the liquidiser and add the chopped strawberries.
Whizz for a few minutes, until you have a thick, smooth mixture.

Pour into glasses and serve straight away, or chill until needed.

Alternatives: Vary the tinned, fresh fruit and juice to create your own smoothie. If you want to add a vegetable to this smoothie, I would suggest using carrot juice instead of the orange juice.
Add a shot of white rum and a dash of lime juice to each glass to make a daiquiri-style cocktail!

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Sunday, 9 June 2013

Foxholes Castle campsite in Shropshire - a review

We spent a fabulous few days at Foxholes Castle Campsite, in sunny Shropshire, over half term. Yes, the sun actually shined on us for practically the whole weekend, which hasn't happened to us for about three years! I did, of course, pack the precautionary wellies and waterproof coats, but luckily we didn't need them at all.

Foxholes is located just outside the pretty village town of Bishop's Castle. While the site caters for caravans, camper-vans and tents (plus two on-site statics and a bunk house), there are no electric hook ups and most of the fields are gently sloping, so tenters were actually in a majority, which was a pleasant surprise.

Facility-wise, the site has a recently built toilet block with solar powered showers and rain-water/well-water flushed loos; these were clean and spider-free and impressively, the solar powered showers were hot too! There is also a covered washing-up area, campers' freezer, fridge and phone re-charging point and extensive waste recycling facilities. Most importantly for us though, was the availability of fire pits for hire (£3 per stay) and fire logs (£3 per bag).

One thing I must have a little gripe about though, is their charge for teenagers. While I have no desire to share a site with hoards of rampaging teens, I equally feel that parents sharing a pitch with responsible teens should not be penalised. Our stay per night with a 12 and 14 year old was £24, but this will go up to £28 per night next year as both girls will be classed as adults. However, if we had two children under 12, the cost would have been a very reasonable £20 per night. I really don't see how 13 year olds can be classed as adults when sharing a tent with their parents, especially on such and isolated, rural site, which really isn't going to appeal to those who want to wreak havoc and disturb other campers!

On a plus point, we booked our pitch as a last minute getaway after seeing the good weather forecast. On arrival, the friendly owner offered us a choice of  'pitches' which, as there is no electric hook ups or hard standing, basically meant we could find a space anywhere we liked! We chose a spot on the gently sloping and very spacious main tent field. The outlook over the beautiful Shropshire countryside was amazing.

If you enjoy walking, the Stiperstones, the Long Mynd and the Shropshire Way are all within easy reach of Bishop's Castle; we also visited Mitchell's Fold stone circle and Powis Castle. I must just mention the Stiperstones Inn, where we received a warm welcome and had a lovely lunch after a walk across the Stiperstones ridge. This traditional pub serves a good range of clearly marked vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free snacks, sandwiches and meals (plus meat-based meals, of course!) and can prepare other dishes on request, depending on your dietary requirements.

Evening entertainment for us consisted of of stroll through fields along the Shropshire Way into Bishop's Castle for a drink in the local micro brewery, the Three Tuns, followed by a slightly slower stroll back to the campsite and dinner around the campfire. We smelt like smoked kippers, but we had a great time!

I would thoroughly recommend Foxholes to anyone who enjoys 'real' camping, and we certainly hope to return in the not to distant future. 

Integrity Statement
This holiday was taken at my own expense. I did not receive payment or any incentives from any of the businesses/websites mentioned. 

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Friday, 7 June 2013

Mexican Rice Burritos

This isn't a recipe as such, just a combination of convenience foods, which makes a tasty and filling meal suitable for camping or festival cooking. Double the ingredients if serving as a main meal and/or add some roasted or fried bell peppers, onion and mushrooms.

Makes 4
  • 1 bag (250g/10oz) ready-cooked Mexican rice (microwave type such as Uncle Ben's)
  • 200g/8oz (1 small tin/½ large tin) of refried beans
  • 100g/4oz grated mozzarella/cheddar/vegan melting cheese
  • 4 Mexican tortilla wraps
  • Salsa/guacamole and salad to serve, optional
Tip the rice into a pan and add a few tbsp of water. Cook gently for around 5 minutes, until heated through.
Heat one wrap at a time in a large frying pan (no oil). Spread on 2 tbsp of refried beans, ¼ of the rice and top with ¼  of the grated cheese. Add a dollop of guacamole, or salsa if wanted. 

Fold the 2 sides of the tortilla in first, then fold the bottom and roll up into a burrito. 

Eat as soon as they are made, or wrap all of the burritos together in foil to keep them warm until you are all ready to eat.

Find lots more camping recipes here.

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Saturday, 1 June 2013

The Vegetarian Pantry - a review

If I ever published a vegetarian cookbook, it would probably look something like The Vegetarian Pantry. The book contains a lovely mix of Mediterranean and Asian inspired vegetarian recipes, which are generally fairly easy to prepare and would go down well with all the family. 

The recipes don't contain any weird or wacky 'health-food' ingredients, so this would make a good book for new vegetarians or people cutting down on the amount of meat they eat. Many of the recipes offer a gluten free alternative, but most also contain dairy and/or eggs, so this book probably wouldn't suit the average vegan. 

I especially liked the 'small plates' section as we often cook a selection of meze style dishes for a weekend meal. The book also contains a range of recipes for breakfasts, soups, salads, main courses and desserts and is visually appealing with a full page image for each recipe.

I've tried out a few recipes from the book and I love the variations offered for each recipe. With the able assistance of Miss K. We made the courgette fritters and the halloumi goujons. Although, not the most healthy options from the book, they were delicious and quite straightforward to prepare.
Courgette Fritters with Minted Yogurt

These fritters are perfect for enjoying with drinks. We like them made with courgettes but you can use carrots, beetroot or onions, if preferred. You can add feta, herbs, spices and chilli for extra flavour – just experiment with whatever you find in your fridge.
  • 250 g/3 cups grated courgette/zucchini
  • 4 spring onions/scallions, finely sliced
  • grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, plus extra for deep-frying
  • 3 tablespoons gram/chickpea flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • sea salt 
For the minted yogurt
  • ½ English cucumber, deseeded and grated
  • 200 g/1 cup thick plain yogurt
  • ½ garlic clove, crushed
  • a handful of fresh mint, chopped
  • a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
Makes 4 servings 
How they should look!
To make the minted yogurt dip, put the grated cucumber in a strainer set over a bowl and leave for 10 minutes to drain any excess liquid. Alternatively you can squeeze out any liquid in
a clean kitchen towel. 
Put the drained grated cucumber in a bowl with the yogurt. Add and stir in the crushed garlic and the chopped mint. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, sugar and season well with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more lemon juice, sugar or salt if necessary.
To make the fritters, sprinkle the courgette/zucchini with salt and put it in a strainer set over a bowl for 10 minutes to draw out any moisture. Alternatively you can squeeze out any liquid in a clean kitchen towel. 
Put the drained grated courgette/zucchini in a bowl, add the spring onions/scallions, lemon zest and juice and teaspoon of vegetable oil, and stir till thoroughly mixed. Combine the gram flour and baking powder, sprinkle them over the vegetables, then stir until well combined.
...and our version, slightly larger and browner!
These fritters are best made in a deep-fat fryer. If you don’t have a deep-fat fryer, put about 2 cm/3⁄4 inch of oil in the bottom of a wok. Heat the oil until it is hot but not smoking. Drop teaspoons of mixture into the oil and cook for about 2 minutes until they are crisp and golden.
Remove the fritters with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. 
Sprinkle the fritters with sea salt while they are still hot. The fritters are best served immediately but will keep for a short time in a warm oven.
The Vegetarian Pantry by Chloe Cocker and Jane Montgomery (Photography by William Reavell) is published by Ryland Peters & Small at £16.99 and is available from

Integrity Statement
I received a copy of The Vegetarian Pantry to review. I did not receive payment, and was not required to write a positive review in return. The views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family. 
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