Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Hotpoint WMFUG742P washing machine review

For the last two months we have been putting the new Hotpoint WMFUG742P washing machine through it's paces. I was selected as a reviewer for both a washing machine and tumble drier, which after a small delay waiting for stock to be sent to the UK, we received in July.

This washing machine has a 7kg drum capacity and has received an A++ energy rating.

It's standard washing noise level is 60 db, the same as normal conversation levels, the noise level rises to 80 db (the kerbside of a busy road) during spinning. Our TV room is next to our kitchen and we can still comfortably watch TV during the spin cycle. I would say it is definitely quieter than our old washing machine!

As you can see there are 14 different wash cycles. There are a number of special wash cycles, including the baby cycle, used to remove soiling and detergent traces from clothing and reduce the amount of bacteria by using a greater quantity of water to optimise the effect of disinfecting additives in detergents; Anti Allergy Plus, to remove major allergens such as pollen, mites & pet hair; and Wool, allowing you to "hand wash" wool items. 

Cycle times for the Clean Plus programmes run for between 100-180 minutes, which are longer than my old machine, however there is a 30 minute & 60 minutes fast wash for smaller loads of lightly soiled clothes. I have used both cycles, and I found the 30 minute wash didn't leave the clothes smelling very fresh, however the 60 minute wash gave great results.

There are a number of ways you can personalise your chosen cycle such as reducing the temperature of the water, reducing the spin speed and delaying the start of the wash. 

The most innovative addition to this machine is the SMART technology; Performance+, Auto+ & Speed+. By selecting one of these options the following will happen;

Performance - an additional 30 minute phase is added which boosts dirt softening and removal to increase washing performance.
Auto - by recognising the weight of the load in the first few minutes the machine will monitor the levels of water required throughout the wash cycle, changing the duration of the wash to give the best washing performance (this option is automatically selected if Performance or Speed are not chosen)
Speed - the wash cycle will reduce by up to 50%, guaranteeing water & energy savings. This should only be used on lightly soiled loads.

The washing machine has an easy to use control panel lock feature, meaning small hands can't interupt your wash cycle!

So would I recommend this washing machine? In an instant yes! This is easy to use and gives great cleaning results. The various options allows us to balance wash performance with both water and energy consumption. The installation and set up was straightforward and comes with a full set of instructions and wash guide. The manufacturer's guarantee is for 12 months parts & labour, however you also receive a Hotpoint 5 years parts guarantee that you need to register for. Full specifications can be found on the Hotpoint UK website

This model is now available to buy online from Currys for £399.99 

Next week I will be reviewing the Hotpoint TDHP871 Condenser Tumble Drier

I received a complimentary Hotpoint WMFUG742P washing machine in return for a written review and video review, however all words and opinions remain my own.

Family Fever

Monday, 1 September 2014

Falmouth Tall Ships 2014

This weekend we headed back down to Cornwall for a few days to spend time with my family. Everyone had travelled down to watch the Tall Ships Regatta, an event that takes place every two years.

The town itself was almost too busy, with lots of roads closed it was just a walk too long for the two littles so instead we decided to re-visit a few of our childhood places with the next generation!

On Saturday (after a little detour!) we parked at Mylor Sailing Club and walked to Trefusis Point, stopping to collect shells and sing "Let it Go!" to the cows that were a captive audience. From Trefusis Point we walked to a little beach that we often went to as children, to look back across the River Fal to Falmouth and to skim stones. We stopped for lunch in the Seven Stars pub and despite only having 2 minutes until the kitchens closed the staff happily took our lunch order for 7 plus a sleepy dog. The food was lovely, no one had any complaints and we could have easily spent the rest of the afternoon in there playing the games that were provided on the bar.

The bag has shells in it...not poo!!

A very determined little girl then stayed awake until 9.30pm to watch the fireworks, that were launched from the same field that we had been in earlier in the day. We walked next to my old junior school playing field to watch them and it felt a little strange to do the same route that I used to take every day 25 years ago to school. As we made our way home we re-told some of our tales and memories, as my niece played with her head torch and proudly kept exclaiming "I wasn't scared of the fireworks this time!"

On Sunday we parked at Pendennis Castle and walked down over the moat to spend a few hours on Castle Beach, at exactly the same spot we used as children. Although Sion and myself had to leave earlier than everyone else, we still managed to fit in a quick paddle and a bit of rock pooling, before the Tall Ships started to appear and shouts of "It's a pirate ship Auntie Carrie" filled our ears. 

I only had my phone with me, but this incredible aerial footage that we saw being taken shows just how big an event it was. 

Of course after all the action and a pretty long drive back we couldn't possibly cook dinner! We headed over to the Grazing Goat in Portswood, Southampton to try it for the first time. We just couldn't decide what to have, so instead of order from the main course options (£10-£15) we ordered five dishes from the salad & grazing plates. The food was lovely, each grazing plate came with a different dipping sauce or mayo. My only gripe is that the chorizo & prawn skewers portion was very small (2 skewers made up of two pieces of chorizo & one prawn) for the price of about £6.00. Despite this though we left feeling satisfied and with a new place to visit on a sunny afternoon!

After such a magical weekend there was nothing else to do, but to go home, open a bottle of Prosecco & watch Masterchef re-runs!

Joining in this week with Magic Moments and What's the Story?

Friday, 22 August 2014

Word of the Week - Energised

Last night when I got home from work Sion was already in his gym kit and he said to me "You're not going to the gym tonight are you?" Without even thinking about it I said "Yes I am", I got changed and off we wnt to the gym for an hour.

Not a particularly ground breaking conversation, but telling all the same.

If Sion had asked me the same question two weeks ago, I would have thought for a second or two and said "No, not togiht, see you later" and watched him head to the gym by himself. This would be in spite of planning to go all week, but needing only the smallest of excuses not to go.

For some reason exercising has suddenly clicked with me. I enjoy it, I like pushing myself to go that little bit longer, go a little bit faster. I'm not going to lie, I can't really see any change appearance wise. I annoyingly seem to weigh exactly the same, but my clothes seem just that little bit looser. I'm walking that little bit taller. My knees don't pop as I walk up the stairs, I feel stronger.

My using energy at the gym I seem to have more energy to use.

This weekend I want to clear the garden, cut the hedges, file away 6 months of paperwork. I'm looking forward to cooking for my friends and family, fitting in a trip or two to the gym.

Most of all I'm looking forward to spending the weekend energised, rather than slumping on the sofa lethargically.

I've not yet got the body of an Olympic athlete, but I've at least turned a corner.

gym animated GIF

The Reading Residence

Better with BRITA winners

Over the last few months I have been working with BRITA as a Better with BRITA ambassador. The aim was to find three food makers who shared BRITA's passion for great food, using fresh, great ingredients.

10 finalists were invited to a live cook off in London on 31st July where they were asked to cook their chosen product in front of 5 judges. Three winners would then be invited to sell their creations at The Big Feastival, held between 31st August and 1st September for one day each.

Drum roll please.....and the winners are....

At The Big Feastival on Friday - Rekha

Rekha's samosas are handcrafted, from the spices to the pastry, to ensure a perfect parcel of taste. Her creations are a favorite amongst her local farmers markets as people love her Indian cooking style. She's a perfectionist cook and ensures a golden glow by using the best ingredients, including BRITA filtered water.

At the Big Feastival on Saturday - Emily

At 15 Emily was the youngest person to enter the competition. Emily used to run her own baking website, Emily's Home Bakes, but gave it up to concentrate on her GCSE's. The judges were impressed with the bespoke cupcakes she designed for each of the judges, especially a miniature BRITA water jug made out of icing. 

At The Big Featival on Sunday - Alex

Alex created his gluten-free brownies after discovering that there was a lack of sweet treats available for his gluten intolerant sister. He's passionate about people enjoying food and wanted to get the best out of his ingredients by using BRITA filtered water. The judges loved the moist chocolate centre of the brownies, as well as the interesting addition of peanut butter.

The three winners received a BRITA tap to enable them to continue to discover the results of cooking with filtered water and they used a BRITA Talori tap at the cook-off. BRITA taps are the most convenient way to get filtered water in the kitchen.

Sadly I won't be able to sample the yummy looking products this year as I will be in Cornwall, but if any of you are heading to The Big Feastival next weekend, be sure to search them out and say Hi!

You can take a look at my other BRITA posts here;

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Recipe - Lardy Cake

And so onto a new GBBO week and a new baking category - BREAD. My gran wasn't really a big bread maker. We were brought up on loaves of bread brought from a local bakery, sliced by a huge (and quite frankly scary) bread slicing machine that spat out our once unsliced loaf into a ready prepared bag and secured with a little plastic peg.

No the bread recipe that reminds me of my Gran is for something much more exciting than a boring white loaf - Lardy Cake. Famous in both the Northern and Southern most reaches of England, Lardy Cake takes a basic bread mix and adds lard, spices and fruit to turn it into a perfect afternoon bread. You only really get Lardy Cake in Northumberland, Hampshire and Wiltshire and although my gran lived most of her adult life in Cornwall, she was born and raised in Hampshire.

During school holidays my brother and I would often be taken to stay with relatives in Hampshire and this would be the sweet treat that we only had on these rare occasions, there really is no other bread recipe that reminds me more of my Gran.

Despite being called a "cake" it really is a bread, "Apparently, Northumberland lardy cakes are made with milk and currants, while Hampshire lardy cakes have no fruit at all. I’ve seen Wiltshire lardy cake made with various combinations of dried fruit and spices. Call it what you will, you can be sure of two things: plenty of lard but no cake. Lardy cake is bread." River Cottage Baking Recipes 

I do have another sweet dough recipe lined up later in this series should "Sweet Dough" be a separate category.

To be a strict Hampshire Lardy Cake there should be no fruit, I have however added a small amount to my recipe, just because I like it that way. This isn't a bread that you can plough through guilt free in an afternoon, but the world would be a boring place without a treat or two in it.

This recipe is a slight adaption of Paul Hollywood's Lardy Cake Recipe.

450g strong white flour
1 tsp salt
2 x 7g sachets instant yeast
150g lard
300ml water
150 g dried mixed fruit
75g caster sugar
50g soft brown sugar
cinnamon to taste (I used 1/2tsp)

Mix together the flour, salt & yeast in a bowl. Rub in 20g of lard using your fingertips until there are no visible pieces.

Add 3/4 of the water and hand mix the flour into the water to form a dough. Add as much remaining water as you need to get a dough that is soft and leaves the sides of the bowl clean (I used it all).

On a lightly floured surface knead the dough for 5-10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth. Place in a clean bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to double in size. This will take 1-2 hours. While you are waiting for the dough to prove, mix the remaining lard, sugars and cinnamon in a bowl to form a light brown paste. Set aside.

Tip your dough onto a floured work surface and roll into a circle about 1/2cm thick.

Dot a third of the lard mix over the surface of the dough, spread evenly and sprinkle a third of the fruit over the top. Working from the bottom of the circle fold up to the centre point, repeat around the circle so that you are left with a hexagon shape. Roll out and repeat twice more, using all the lard mix & fruit.

Line a round loose bottomed tin that your dough hexagon will fit in with baking parchment. Place your dough folded side down into the tin, cover with clingfilm and leave to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Leave to cool slightly before removing from the tin, sprinkling with caster sugar and slicing into wedges.

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