Tuesday, 30 September 2014

My #MorningWin with belVita

As part of the recent BritMums #MorningWin Challenge I was sent three boxes of the new belVita Breakfast Crunchy biscuits - Chocolate Chip, Hazelnut and Apricot to taste and incorporate into our ever increasing busy mornings.

It's funny how something seeming inconsequential becomes such a lifesaver but these three little boxes of joy became just that over the last 2 weeks. Our normal routine was forgotten in an instance when we had to deal with the death of a close family member. Mealtimes were forgotten and appetites disappeared. For the first week Sion was away in Bristol making arrangements and I found that my normal breakfast of granola & yogurt was forgotten about. Come mid morning I'd be getting hungry, but luckily I had taken a selection of the biscuits to work so I could dip in and slowly eat a few biscuits with a cup of tea.

Perhaps it was because my appetite was reduced but they easily sustained me through until lunchtime. The new belVita Breakfast Crunchy biscuits are generously packed with delicious ingredients to make a bigger and crunchier biscuit. They are the only breakfast biscuits proven to slowly release carbohydrates over four hours as part of a balanced breakfast (such as a portion of fruit, a serving of dairy and a drink).

Of the three flavours Hazelnut was my favourite, followed by Choc Chip. The Apricot was just a little too sweet for me, first thing in the morning.

This past week Sion is now back at work as slowly gaining his appetite. I feel much happier knowing he takes a packet of these to work with him along with his fruit and it gives him a good base to start the day.

Sunday was our first free day at home for three weeks. The early morning sun was shining through into our conservatory and while Sion caught up on some much needed sleep I actually took the time to make a "proper" coffee and a simple, balanced breakfast. Using the hazelnut biscuits I layered low fat cream cheese and sliced kiwi fruit & strawberries.

Such a small Morning Win but a sign that life is slowly returning to a more manageable pace. At least I know that when life throws it's next curveball we will be able to keep our energy up with belVita Breakfast Crunchy biscuits.

This post is an entry for #MorningWin Linky Challenge sponsored by belVita Breakfast. Learn more at http://bit.ly/belVitaUK

Monday, 29 September 2014

Time to be in the Kitchen...Chocolate and Cherry tea ring

After the last few weeks there was only one thing I wanted to do on Sunday morning - lose myself for a few hours in a fog of flour and icing sugar. Most people reach for a bar of chocolate when they are feeling stressed or sad, I on the other hand have always reached for bread...luckily for me that this week's GBBO was advanced dough. Taking inspiration from Richard's Swedish tea ring (Richard to win!!) I decided to use chocolate and fruit for my filling, even adding cocoa and vanilla to the bread dough for that extra chocolate-y hit, along with the more traditional eggs and butter for an enriched dough.

Just a word of advice - if you are adding chocolate drops to your filling its probably wiser to leave the ring uncut...within 5 minutes of baking most of my chocolate was bubbling out of the sides! Luckily once it had cooled and I cut into it there were enough drops inside to still give the chocolate richness I was after.

Best served on the same day of baking for that fresh softness, although pretty good the following day dunked into your morning cuppa!

Recipe adapted from Fruity Swedish Tea Ring


For the dough
400g strong white flour
25g cocoa powder
7g salt
10g fast action yeast
25g unsalted butter, softened and cubed
35g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
100ml full fat milk warmed
0.5tsp vanilla paste or seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod

For the filling
150g dried cherries (not glacé)
150g chopped dried apricots
100g chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate)
60g caster sugar
1tbsp cocoa powder
1tsp vanilla paste or seeds from 1 vanilla pod

For the glaze
1 tbsp apricot jam
Juice of 1 lemon
100g icing sugar

Put all the dough ingredients into a bowl along with 50ml of water and mix together using a spoon. 

Add a further 50ml of water and knead using an electric mixer. I kneaded on slow for two minutes then on a medium speed for a further three minutes. Continue mixing until you have a smooth soft dough. Cover with a tea towl and leave to prove in a warm place. Your dough should be twice it's original size ( approximately 45 minutes prove time).

For the filling mix the fruit, nuts and vanilla in one bowl and the cocoa and sugar in another.

When the dough has proved, turn it out onto a floured surface. Knock back and lightly knead.

Roll out the dough to a 40cm/60cm rectangle, taking care to keep as much air in the dough as possible.

Sprinkle the sugar and cocoa over the dough then cover with the fruit and chocolate.

Starting at a long side, carefully roll the dough up into a cylinder (like you would a Swiss roll). Shape into a ring and use water to stick the two ends together.

Grease a large baking tin with butter and carefully lift the dough ring onto the tray. Using scissors make vertical cuts into the dough at 4cm intervals around the ring. 

Cover the tray loosely with a proving bag or clean carrier bag and leave to rise for 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5

Bake your loaf for 15 minutes and check the colour. If it is browning too quickly cover with foil before returning to the oven and continue cooking for a further 10 minutes until it is a deep brown.

Gently heat the apricot jam to make a glaze.

Once baked, remove the tea ring from the oven, brush with the apricot glaze and transfer to a cooling rack.

Allow to cool completely before making your icing by combining the lemon juice and icing sugar together. Drizzle the lemon icing over the loaf and serve.

Friday, 26 September 2014

HomeSense makes sense...

Imagine going to a store where the stock changes daily, you get up to 60% off well known brands and there's parking a-plenty...you've just imagined HomeSense!

I got a sneaky peek inside the Salisbury store on Wednesday prior to it's grand opening on Thursday to get an understanding behind it's concept and to take a look at the range of goods being sold.


There are more than 30 stores across the UK, ranging from Taunton to Lincoln, Poole to Fort Kinnaird in Scotland.

Homesense is part of the TK Maxx family and specialises in quality and branded home wear. Deliveries are brought in store every evening and the stock is immediately put on the shelves, meaning each days offerings are different. HomeSense is not the place to go to if you want 10 items all the same, but if you are after something a little different, that you won't find everywhere else - you have to take a look at their offerings!

The home wear available covers every room in your home - In Salisbury there is even a pet section and a brilliant range of children's toys and books. Dotted throughout the two floor store is what I call "inspiration stations". The styling is not rigid, but instead gives a good overview of how items can compliment each other.


After taking photos of my favourite pieces I now cannot wait to return for a little spending spree - I'm thinking cook wear and crockery may feature heavily, although with the stock constantly changing, who knows what I'll end up with? I promise I'll share my finds with you all though!

HomeSense Salisbury can be found at Churchill Way West, Salisbury SP2 7TS. Opening Hours are 9am-8pm Mon-Friday, 9am-7pm Saturday and 11am-5pm Sunday.

 We're going on an adventure

Thursday, 25 September 2014

On feeling Powerless...

For almost the last two weeks I've felt powerless. Powerless to stop someone's pain, powerless to change circumstances, powerless to give comfort and I don't know what to do.

On Friday 12th September we were told that Sion's dad had passed away suddenly. It was as if the world stopped spinning. I'll never forget the look of absolute shock and devastation of the faces of Sion and his sisters. My immediate response was to comfort, to wrap my arms around him, to offer words of understanding, but in those first moments of shock he pushed me away, unable to bear anyone else intruding in his world.

We spent the weekend in a fog of tears and wine, desperately trying to find out what had happened, unable to answer people's questions. Being sucker punched when the man I loved looked at me through tear reddened eyes and said "He's not really gone, is he?"

This last week has been spent apart while Sion and his family sort through paperwork and funeral arrangements. Almost every unopened piece of mail has revealed secrets and lies, clouding their memories of the man they have lost. His story in death has overshadowed his story as a father and friend.

Grief has been put to one side to make room for anger, disappointment and regret. I watch all this from a distance, wishing I could change things, make it all better but I can't. Instead I clean, I cook, I pack up clothes, I drive, I try to help. I still feel powerless.

The mail is all opened now, there can be no more surprises. Songs and photographs have been chosen for the funeral, everyone is back at work for the interim.

I keep my phone with me wherever I go, waiting for the call to say he needs me. I sit nervously each night until he is safely home. I glance at him throughout the evening, looking for signs of upset. I fall asleep only once I am sure there are no silent tears falling beside me.

I don't know what else to do. I know the sadness and pain will come, I know it is a process we must all go through. I hope I am strong enough to get him to better, happier times. I am powerless to change it, I am powerless and scared.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Time to be in the kitchen...Cornish Pasty

Pastry week this week on GBBO and hearing that the technical bake was savoury parcels, there's only one recipe choice for this Cornish lass - PROPER Cornish Pasties.

Despite coming originally from Dorset, my Gran embraced the Cornish Pasty and made it her own legendary treat. The men would get a pasty that could only fit into a large roasting tin diagonally, more oblong than semi circle, it would be maneuvered into the tin for baking, using 2 large spatulas and a prayer. when it came to eating it would be cut in half to be able to fit on a plate...each and every mouthful of it would be finished. As children we would get a mini version - 2 pasties to the roasting tray! The crust would always be saved until last, to be dunked in non-traditionally tomato ketchup.

All too often in baking we look to add new ingredients, put our own twist on a recipe, make it our own. But a Cornish Pasty is set in stone - to add or remove anything would make it only a humble pasty - still tasty, but not quite right. This recipe is taken from The Cornish Pasty Association

Take the time with your pastry, it needs structure to be able to hold it's place and you will not be able to roll and shape it if you miss out the rest period. I use a side plate to make six 6" pasties with a small crimp - you could make 4 larger pasties using a dinner plate as your template.


For the pastry;
500g strong bread flour
120g lard
25g cake margarine or spread (not pure butter)
5g salt
175g cold water 

For the filling;
400g good quality beef skirt or chuck steak, cut into small peices. If you can't get hold of skirt of chuck, look for a good quality cut with no fat or gristle that doesn't need slow cooking.
400g firm, waxy potato such as Maris Piper or Wilja
250g swede
200g onion
salt & pepper

Combine the flour and salt with the chopped lard & fat and rub together to form breadcrumbs. Add the water and using a food mixer beat until the pastry combines and becomes elastic. This will take longer than normal shortcrust pastry, I mixed mine for 4 minutes. Bring together in a ball, wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 3 hours.

Chop your potato and swede into thin small 1 cm squares and finely dice your onion. Put all three in a bowl, add a generous mix of salt and pepper and mix well.

After the 3 hours rest time roll out the pastry to about a 5mm thickness. Using a plate as your template cut out circles and set to one side.

Preheat your oven to 200C Gas Mark 6.

Put a layer of vegetable mix into the centre of a pastry circle, leaving a 2" outer edge of pastry. Add a layer of beef, add some extra salt & pepper and top with another layer of vegetables. You can really pile on the filling, it will shrink during cooking and you will be left with air pockets.

Bring the edges of the pastry, press lightly to seal and crimp around the outer edge. It's really difficult to explain crimping. Basically you want to bring a small section of edging over itself, secure by pressing down, then repeat. There are lots of videos on You Tube, here's one I found; 

Finish your pasties with an egg or milk wash as place onto baking parchment, or a non stick sheet and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until golden in colour. Leave to cool for 5 minutes and carefully lift to check the underside. If you have slightly soggy bottoms, turn the pasty over and finish off for a further 10 minutes. Don't worry the pastry will be hard enough to keep it's shape will you have this extra bake time.

Eat fresh from the oven or allow to cool, wrap in grease proof paper and eat cold, preferably outside, on a windswept beach. 

GBBO badge (1)

With Supergolden Bakes

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Time to be in the Kitchen...Pea & Watercress Soup

After a summer of salads, left over BBQ chicken and cold puddings I'm starting to crave the autumn meals - casseroles, hearty soups and a good roast dinner. Such a shame then that we seem to be in the midst of an Indian Summer in the UK with temperatures of 20c most days!

This soup is delicate enough for a summer menu but hits the spot when you want a warming bowl of comfort. Equally tasty hot or cold this recipe will satisfy 6 people as a starter, 4 as a light supper served with bread.


3 spring onions finely chopped
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
25g butter
400g fresh shelled peas (or good quality frozen peas)
250g watercress roughly chopped
100g parsley, stalks removed and roughly chopped
1lt hot water or vegetable stock
100g double cream or creme fraiche
Salt & pepper to taste

To garnish

6 rashers of pancetta bacon 

Using a large saucepan sweat the spring onions and garlic in the butter over a low heat for about 2 minute until the butter has melted & the garlic has softened but not coloured.

Add the peas to the pan and give it a quick stir to mix the onions and garlic into the peas. Add the chopped watercress and water or stock. Increase the temperature to a boil then put the lid on and leave to simmer for 5 minutes until the peas have cooked through and are bright green. Take off from the heat, add the parsley and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

While the soup is cooling dry fry your pancetta until golden brown (this will take less than 30 seconds on each side). Place onto kitchen roll to soak up the excess fat and leave to harden. Once cool enough to handle roughly chop the bacon up to small-ish pieces.  

When the soup has cooled slightly use a hand held blender to combine the ingredients. Stir through a few times to make sure all the peas are blended. If the consistency is too thick add a little more water. Stir in your cream or creme fraiche and season to taste.

Once you are ready to serve, gently warm the soup through, ladle into your bowls and add a handful of croutons, with some bacon crumbs added on top. I also added some small cubes (5mm x 5mm) of peeled & chopped Granny Smith apple to the bottom of the bowl to add a little sweetness to counter balance the saltiness of the bacon.

Glass of ice cold Sauvignon Blanc is entirely compulsory!

with Supergolden Bakes

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

PicStick review and discount

What does your fridge look like? If it's anything like mine is a mis-match of different bits of paper, pictures, and magnets (even without our own children!)

Last week though I was able to start a fridge revolution! I was invited to create my own photo magnets using PicStick. For only £9.50 you can choose 9 images to be made into glossy magnets, each 5cm by 6.5cm. These then get posted out FREE OF CHARGE to anywhere in the world...yep ANYWHERE! Once you receive them you simply snap them apart and fix them to any metal surface - fridge, washing machine, radiator...
The uploading of the photos was straightforward, even to me. You create your account, or log in with Facebook and upload photos from your computer, tablet, phone and Facebook account. Once you upload your photo they will remain in your account so you can use them again and again without reloading them into your selection. Then just drag your chosen 9 photos into the grid.
Don't panic when they appear distorted - they are uploaded onto your account as a square image, but appear correct in the grid. You have the option to crop and rotate images to allow for both landscape and portrait images.
Finally you provide payment details and delivery is made in 1-2 days for UK, 3-5 days EU, 5-10 days for the rest of the world.
The images as clear and pretty true to screen image, although I did think one or two were slightly duller. They were easy to separate and are made of quality materials so will endure little hands moving them constantly!
All your previous grids are saved under your account so you can re-order the same grid and ship to a different address, such a time saver at Christmas time I would think!

I think these are definitely worth the £9.50 cost, these make a great idea for Christmas & birthday presents and would be a lovely way to remember holidays and special occasions - maybe even wedding favours?
And the best thing for you lovely readers is that until the 11th October you can get 25% off each order. That means each grid will only cost £7.13 including Worldwide shipping. Just head over to the PicStick website, use TIME25 on checking out and your discount will be processed. You can use the code more than once, so now could be the time to start your Christmas shopping!!
I received a complimentary 9 photo fridge magnet set for the purposes of this review and have been entered into a prize draw based on discount code use, however all words and opinions remain my own.
Family Fever




Friday, 12 September 2014

Time to be in the kitchen...Panettone

This week's Great British Bake Off theme was European Bakes, with lot of layer cakes and yeast cakes.

My cooking inspiration, my Gran, never made it to Europe. In fact she only flew once in her life-all the way to Canada, so as you can imagine European cakes were few and far between in my early childhood. That was until we were introduced to my step-mum and her mother "Nonnina". Nonnina was Italian and despite living in Yorkshire for 50 years she had (to us anyway) still a strong Italian accent.

She was a painter and her terraced cottage was filled with piles of magazines that she kept, knitted toys that she made and her art. Her studio was in the basement, down a rickety set of stairs and opened up into the most beautiful garden that she would sit in, feeding the birds little crumbs of her cake and toast.

At Christmas time we would always be given a traditional Panettone, wrapped in cellophane and in a square box. The smell was a heady mix of vanilla, candied peel and a hint of alcohol. It was as light as a sponge, really airy and would be served in a big slice with a cup of tea.

The traditional way of making Panettone is a slow triple-prove method that gives the dough the best chance to form it's characteristic bubbles, keeping enough structure to hold the fruit in place. It should be cooled upside down, suspended on skewers to encourage the domed top to hold and harden, as well as keeping the internal structure stretched and airy until it has cooled completely.

That recipe is a recipe for a lazy, rainy weekend when time and patience allows.

The recipe that I used was still a lengthy process, with an 8 hour proving time in the fridge, but was an all in one method, using dried yeast. After starting the mix first thing in the morning, it was ready to bake after dinner. This is a good recipe to get started with, it gives the exact taste I remember, if not quite the texture. You will need a mixer for this recipe, the dough is a sticky one and needs plenty of mixing to get everything incorporated and stretched.

Italian Panettone - Adapted from The BBC Food Paul Hollywood recipe


500g strong white flour
7g salt
2 x 7g sachets of instant yeast
50g caster sugar
140ml warm milk
5 free range eggs & 1 egg yolk at room temperature (keep the white for egg wash)
250g unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces
250g dried fruit soaked for 15 minutes in 3 tbs rum
zest of 1 orange & 1 lemon
generous pinch of nutmeg
1.5 tsp of vanilla paste (or seeds from 2 vanilla pods)

Put the flour, salt, yeast, sugar, milk & eggs into the bowl of a free standing mixer with a dough hook attachment.

Mix slowly for 2 minutes, then increase to a medium speed and mix for a further 6-8 minutes until you have a smooth dough.

Gradually add the softened butter and mix for a further 5-8 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl periodically to make sure all the butter gets combined into the mix. This will make a very soft dough.

Mix in the fruit, zest and vanilla until it is all incorporated.

Cover the bowl with clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least 8 hours and the dough is firm enough for you to shape it.

Prepare your cake tin (I used an 8" fixed base tin) by lining the base and sides with double thickness baking parchment so that the paper is approx 5cm above the top of your tin.

Remove the dough from the fridge, knock back the dough, shape it into a ball and put into your tin.

Leave to prove for 2-3 hours until the dough just starts to dome over the top of your tin (not the top of the paper collar). 

Preheat your oven to 180C/Gas 4.

Brush the top with your egg white wash and bake for 25 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 150C/Gas 2 and bake for a further 35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Mine should have had a further 10 minutes to cook as the dough in the centre wasn't completely cooked.

Remove the panettone from the tin immediately and allow to cool. Be careful removing it as the cake will be very soft at this point and can easily dent if you knock the side (opps!). Once completely cooled remove the paper collar and serve.

So it has the height and the taste of the panettone, but not quite the texture. It may have been because I took it out of the oven a little too soon and that this one slow prove method will always produce a denser texture. The only way to find out is by trying the traditional 3 prove recipe next and compare...all I need now is a rainy, no plans weekend, 4 skewers and a bucket to rest my cake over!

GBBO badge (1)

With Supergolden Bakes

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Time to be in the Kitchen: Traditional Lasagne

We invited one of Sion's new colleagues to have dinner with us last night, after hearing how he is working away from home and eats in the same restaurant every night when he is away.
Being away from your family is hard enough, but missing out on home cooked meals and conversation makes it even harder. 

Knowing I would be limited on time to prepare and cook meant that there was really only one dish to do - lasagne. The beauty of this meal is that you can prepare the meat ragu the day before, or make a double quantity, cool completely, then freeze in portions of your choice to use at your convenience. These quantities will make a 6 portion lasagne, if serving with salad & bread (4 if you are all adults and hungry!)


For the meat ragu - 
2 tbs cooking oil
4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 medium onion (finely chopped)
2 sticks of celery
400g minced beef
400g minced pork (or use 800g of minced beef, or vegetarian alternative)
1 large red pepper
2 tbs tomato puree
500g carton of tomato passata (alternatively 1 tin chopped tomatoes)
200ml red wine
1 beef stock cube or liquid stock portion (I used a Knorr stock pot)
1 fresh bouquet garni (made using sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley & bay leaves)
Salt & pepper to taste

For the white sauce - 
1 1/2 pints whole milk
1/2 onion, peeled but not chopped
pinch nutmeg
2 bay leaves
50g butter
50g plain flour

To construct - 
Fresh or dried lasagne pasta sheets
grated mature cheese
black pepper

Start by frying the bacon, garlic, onion & celery over a medium heat until the bacon has started to colour and the onions are soft & golden in colour.

Add your minced meat and cook through, stiring occasionally to break up any larger chunks of mince. While the meat is cooking, make up your bouquet garni using string or the stalk of some parsley. If this is too fiddly, you can always finely chop all the leaves of the herbs except for the bay leaves and add straight to the pot.

Add all other ingredients and mix thoroughly, put the lid on and simmer on a low heat for at least 30 minutes. It is at this point that you can pour yourself some of the red wine and catch up on one of your recorded programmes. Should anyone ask you for something, tell them to wait - you're cooking dinner after all!

If after 30 minutes your sauce is still quite runny, leave the lid off and cook for a little longer until the ragu is nice and thickened. Taste and add more salt & pepper if necessary. Remove the bouquet garni or bay leaves of you chopped your herbs instead.

Preheat your oven to 175C.

To make the white sauce put the milk, onion, nutmeg and bay leaves into a large sauce pan and bring to the boil. As soon as it starts boiling take off the heat and using a slotted spoon remove the bay leaves & onion.

In a separate pan gentle melt the butter then add the flour. Mix together with a whisk and continue to stir for 2 minutes. This is to "cook out" the flour and should make your sauce nice and creamy tasting. Add a ladleful of the flavoured milk and stir vigorously. This will turn into a lumpy mess - DO NOT PANIC! Keep adding the milk gradually and whisking until all the milk is added. By this point you should have a creamy sauce. If you still notice lumps, take it off the heat and whisk it with a hand whisk for one minute. Put it back on the heat and gently stir it until it has thickened to a porridge type consistancy. If you spoon some onto a plate you want it loose enough to start spreading, but still able to hold it's shape.

Taking an ovenproof dish start with a layer of ragu, then lasagne sheet ( to make it a little healthier, I sneak a layer of wilted spinach in between the ragu & lasagne too). Repeat until all the ragu has been used. Make sure the final layer is pasta then top with your white sauce. Finish with a generous sprinkling of grated cheese and black pepper.

Bake for 40 minutes or until golden. Serve with bread & green salad and giggle as you watch people eat without letting it cool down first!

What's your go-to mid week meal? Let me know if there's a recipe you want to see.

Linking up to Lavender & Lovage's September Theme of Mediterranean 

Cooking with Herbs Lavender and Lovage

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Hotpoint TDHP 871 tumble drier review

Last week I shared my review of the Hotpoint WMFUG742P washing machine with my readers. This week I'm lucky enough to be able to also review it's sister product - the Hotpoint TDHP 871 tumble drier.

This is marketed as a condenser tumble drier, however when the drier is delivered it comes with the hoses and fixings for you to easily convert it to a draining tumble drier, if you have the plumbing set up in your home. The water container is easily pulled out from the top left of the drier and holds a generous amount of water, although it is recommended to empty this reservoir after every cycle to ensure the load is thoroughly dried.

There are two filters that need to be regularly cleaned, the drum filter and the heat pump filter. Both are easily accessible and can be cleaned in seconds.

This drier has an 8kg load capacity which is more than enough for a bedding set and a few towels!

There are 9 drying programmes that you can select (including wool and delicates) and a further 7 drying levels, ranging from DAMP to EXTRA DRY. We have found that both the CUPBOARD DRY and EXTRA DRY leave cotton clothes quite creased, however there are lighter drying levels that give better results.

As with the washing machine, drying times are constantly adjusted throughout the length of the cycle to give you the most economical performance. You can also set a timed dry, within a number of the programmes/materials.

As with the Hotpoint washing machine you can set a timer delay for up to 24 hours on a number of the programmes to ensure your load is dried at a time that fits in with you and your family. To reduce creases there are Pre and Post care options that will gently tumble the load with cool air to keep clothes refreshed.

There is the added benefit of a child lock, which will disable all other buttons when activated. The display is clear and easy to read, with reminders to empty the water reservoir and clean filters at the start of every cycle.

It is obviously noticeable when the tumble drier is running but you can easily hold a conversation in the room and once you are in a different room, the noise is hardly noticeable at all.

Since using this tumble drier we have had no issues at all with it, Clothes come out evenly dried, with no damage and often in less time that the standard cycle length. I would happily recommend this drier to people.

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 tumble drier is currently available on the Currys website for £449, down from £499

I received a complimentary Hotpoint TDHP 871 tumble drier in return for a written review and video review, 
however all words and opinions remain my own.

Family Fever

Friday, 5 September 2014

WOTW - Inspired

This has been a week of inspiration. After spending all of last week away from the blog (don't you hate it when real life and the day job gets in the way?!!) I've come back this week refreshed and full of ideas.

For the last few months I've been floundering a bit in Blogland. My blog doesn't really fit into a defined genre, it never has. I can see it becoming in part a parent blog, but for that to happen, we need to become parents and that's in the lap of a God somewhere! Our jobs have changed for both of us and while long term it's a brilliant step forward, for now it means tightening our belts and staying closer to home, so that's put a stop on the travelling/day trip posts that I enjoy doing.

But recently I've dusted off the cookbooks and started to take part in bake-alongs...and I love it! I love baking, I love cooking, I love putting my own slant on a recipe to add something different. Other people seem to like it too and that makes me happy!

So far this week I've gutted and filleted a fish, made egg custard from scratch, made chocolate ganache and had a go at spun sugar (not all for the same recipe)! This weekend I'm going to use my new pasta machine for the first time to make ravioli. My head is in a recipe book for at least an hour every evening and I can't wait to push myself to try something new, something challenging, something inspiring.

My blog won't become an impersonal recipe blog, but I will be showing you what I'm trying out, what works and what doesn't - along with our adventures outside of the kitchen and our home.

I can't wait to get started...I hope you come along for the ride!


1Fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative:his philosophy inspired a later generation of environmentalists[WITH OBJECT AND INFINITIVE]: his passion for literature inspired him to begin writing

The Reading Residence

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Chocolate custard tarts

So here we are at week 5 of GBBO and this week's theme was Pies & Pastry.

I would have made my Gran's famous egg & bacon pie, but part of me wants to keep the (very simple) recipe a family secret so instead I decided on custard tarts.

I'll be honest, if you had asked me to make custard before last night I would have reached for the bird's powdered custard, or more likely, the ready made carton. It's only from watching countless cookery programmes over the last few years that I even realised custard contained eggs!

These custard tarts have an added element with chocolate ganache added to the centre. The original recipe was one of Paul Hollywood's finest - found here, although I have changed the quantities for the fillings and used shop brought puff pastry - let's be honest, life is too short to faff around making puff pastry...especially on a Wednesday night!


1 packet of ready made puff pastry

120g caster sugar
4 egg yolks
4tsp cornflour
pinch of salt
330ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod 
1 cinnamon stick

unsalted butter for greasing your tin

50g dark chocolate
50ml double cream

Pre heat your oven to 200C/Gas 6 (or if you are like me, forget to check the temp until later and realise you baked everything at 175C). Butter the holes in a 12-hole muffin tin.

Roll out your puff pastry and cut 12 circles to fit your tin (I needed a 4in cutter). Press each pastry disc into the tine holes, line with baking parchment, fill with a few baking beans (or dry rice) and blind bake for 10 - 15 minutes.

Allow to cool completely in the tin before removing the baking beans and parchment.

To make the custard whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and salt together in a bowl. Put to one side.

Put the milk, vanilla pod (sliced and with seeds scraped into the milk) and cinnamon into a large pan. Bring to the boil and take off the heat. Pass the hot milk through a sieve then pour over the egg mixture. Whisk together well and return to your saucepan. Place it back onto a low heat and stir continuously until thick. Remove again from the heat, whisk to remove any lumps and allow to cool.

Melt the chocolate in a small boil over simmering water. Once melted add the double cream and mix to make your ganache.

Spoon the cooled custard to almost reach the top of your pasty cases. Using a teaspoon add a small amount of ganache to the centre of each tart.

Place the tarts back into the oven for a further 10 minutes.

Cool and dust with icing sugar to serve.

I'll be honest, I was a little underwhelmed with this week's finished tart. They taste fine, but the custard tarts of my childhood had slightly browned filling. Reading back through the recipe though I can see that having the temperature lower than I should have and not splitting the vanilla pod before adding it to the milk has had an obvious effect on the overall bake.

At least now I can make a pretty decent egg custard and a ganache...it's all things to add to my skills bank - and I've learnt to read the recipe completely before starting!!

GBBO badge (1)

With Supergolden Bakes