Tag Archives: Cookery

The Wonderbag!

The Wonderbag!

logo-wonderbag

I have made a ‘wonderful’ discovery and it is a wonderful bag called a ‘Wonderbag.’  Seriously.  Much to my chagrin this is not a sponsored post so I can’t actually give you a demonstration as to how wonderful a ‘Wonderbag’ is, but I’m reliably informed that it is indeed wonderful.  My friend has one and loves it.  Here’s a picture of it:

I am in absolute wonder at the Wonder Bag. Cool innit!  No it's not a hat or a pet bed.

I am in absolute wonder at the Wonderbag. Cool innit! No it’s not a hat or a pet bed.

What is this you may ask?  As I’ve said, it is a bag that is full of wonder.  Well, not quite.  I don’t quite know how you’d contain wonder in a bag, I guess it would be rather difficult.

Speaking half sensibly though, this is a low tech version of a slow cooker as far as I can see.  I own a slow cooker and I love it, it’s great for cooking warming soups and broths and making cheap cuts of meat taste like food fit for royalty.  This is one step on from this method of cooking, only cleverereereerer.

The images below describe very succinctly how to use one of these:

img-how-wonderbag-works

All you do is heat your food up on the hob and then you bob it in the Wonderbag, pull the drawstring so the bag is closed, leave it for hours (exactly the same principle as a slow cooker) and then when you decide your food is thoroughly cooked and ready to serve……you dish it out and eat it!  Simple really.

Hungry?  Sort of like the 'boil in the bag' principle but better.

Hungry? Sort of like the ‘boil in the bag’ principle but better.

The bag itself is made up of two layers of fabric (inside and outside) and the filling is recycled polystyrene which is the insulator that allows your food to cook whilst in the bag.  Basically this a heat retention device that cooks your dinner.  I’m impressed.

As you know, if you cook a casserole the initial part of the process is on the hob and then you have to leave it in the oven for hours using gas or electricity.  The Wonderbag allows you to miss out the last stage and all the associated energy costs.  You kickstart the cooking process on the hob and leave the bag to do the rest.    This week British Gas announced profits that were frankly too ridiculous for me to remember exactly, something like 60 million, put it this way, it was a lot.  More than I have in my piggy bank for sure.  I would love to stop putting money in their pockets and keep a bit more for me and my family, as far as I can see the Wonderbag would be a great way of doing that.

What I really love is that this product was designed with the developing world in mind.  For every Wonderbag that is bought, another Wonderbag is donated to a family in Africa.  Share and share alike. *round of applause from me*

kitchen_header

In Africa the Wonderbag is ideal as they have limited fuel resources and  facilities for cooking in some areas.  It’s a brilliantly practical invention and it’s made with recycled materials too, so the environmental impact is limited.

I am surprised that the material used is either hand wash or machine wash in cool water, surely food is going to end up dripped on the bag quite regularly and it would be so much more helpful if you could just chuck it in the washing machine? Then again, I’m no expert, maybe there’s some reason for this I don’t know about.

The Wonderbag have a very informative, interesting WEBSITE that I’ve spent ages browsing, their ethos is admirable, their product seems perfectly practical and I just think they’re worth investing in.  I know I’m saving up for one.  They do seem rather pricey at £30 for a small one and £70 for a large one, but if you consider that you’re actually buying two and giving one to charity, it suddenly doesn’t seem quite so bad.  Mind you you can get a decent slow cooker for about £15 squid these days, but they do still use energy.  The Wonderbag will no doubt save you money over time after the initial blow to your bank account.

This one is my absolute favourite.  Love the colours!

This one is my absolute favourite. Love the colours and the little flower pattern.

I can see the Wonderbag being an absolute gem if you go camping a lot.  Bring your food to the boil, bung it in the bag whilst you’re out climbing mountains  and then come back to a hot dinner.  If you go on a long journey in the car, just take your casserole or rice dish with you (you can actually cook a whole range of things in this) and have a proper meal en route.  Forget soggy tuna butties, you can eat something far nicer with one of these.   ‘Don’t eat sandwiches that sag, eat wonderful food with a Wonderbag!’  Honestly, I should do more slogan competitions.  Or maybe I should just ban myself from exclamation marks and bad poetry.

No more soggy saggy butties!

No more soggy saggy butties!

If I ever manage to save up for one of these I promise, hand on heart to post recipes that’ll make your mouth water and you’ll maybe think about getting one yourself?  It seems like such a great product and such a good cause.  Donating money to charity is one thing, but I think I feel better donating a gift that will keep on giving.  You buy yourself something that eventually saves you money and you help a family in Africa too.  Plus they look fantastic and I’d love to have one to display in our kitchen (once I’ve cleared all the mounds of washing up  away that is).

This is not a sponsored post, I just think Wonderbag, and everything about it, looks wonderful. End of. I only have my friend’s recommendation to go off, but I trust her implicitly and can’t wait to get one myself so I can start cooking wonderful recipes and saving a bit of cash too.

Ayr Food Bloggers Conference – I’m going!

Ayr Food Bloggers Conference – I’m Going!

Thanks to Sainsburys Family Blogger network I’ve been given a ticket to attend the Ayr Food Bloggers conference!  Can’t wait!  This weekend I’ll be staying with Elaine from the Fun-As-A-Gran  blog and meeting a load of other food bloggers too.  Soooo excited!  I’m now off to find some clean jeans, a nice shirt, charge the camera and my phone, starve myself in preparation for sampling some beautiful food and quadruple check the train times.  Wish me luck!  I’ll post about it all afterwards!

By the way, WordPress has decided to omit any spacing in the post below, can’t get it to stop it. Sorry. Professional as always! (blushes)

The select event is being held at Ayr Racecourse in one of their function suites on Saturday 1st September. Please feel free to take a look at their website for more information on the venue. http://www.ayr-racecourse.co.uk/conferences-and-events

The full day event will feature a spectacular local food tasting lunch with lots of opportunity to network with fellow food bloggers. We are on schedule to attract 25 participants, including food bloggers, restaurateurs and hotels reps all interested in food blogging. This is Scotland’s first Food Bloggers conference and we are capping the number of people attending to 25 to try and keep the conference as small, informative and intimate as possible. Attracting Food Bloggers from across the UK, the inaugural Taste Ayrshire’s Food Bloggers Conference will herald the beginning of the Taste Ayrshire week long Food Festival.

The agenda for the day is as follows:
9:30am:                              Arrival and registration
10.00am-11.00am:           Finding the best Produce and Showcasing Food for your Blog with Justin Galea.
11.00am-11.15am:           Tea/Coffee Break
11.15am-1pm:                   Using Social Media to Promote Your Blog with Colin Kelly.
1pm-2.30pm:                     Tour of the facilities followed by a cookery demonstration from Ayr Racecourse’s talented and entertaining Executive Chef, Donald McInnes.                                             Followed by a delicious plated lunch using the freshest and finest Ayrshire                                      local produce.
2:30pm-3.30pm:               Fine tune your Food Writing with John Cooke.
3.30pm-4.30pm:               Food Photography Masterclass with Darren McKean.
4.30pm – 5.30pm              Food Promotion with Christopher Trotter.
5.30pm-6pm                      Networking and Close
Some more information on the speakers:
A native Australian, Justin Galea was raised by his food-loving family who originate from Malta. He trained at Melbourne’s leading school for food, tourism and hospitality training gaining experience in the large range of restaurants in the sprawling city. In his early twenties, Justin gained his first Michelin experience at the Lynch’s Winter Garden Restaurant in Melbourne where he was one of the youngest sous-chefs. This is where Justin learned the Escoffier classics that continue to inspire him today. At the age of 23, Justin left Australia to travel and whilst in Scotland was recruited to join the world’s first golf resort, Turnberry. Starting as Chef de Partie but quickly promoted to saucier and later the fish station in the bustling Turnberry kitchens, he was then promoted to Sous Chef. After four years, he returned to Australia to rejoin his family, but he soon missed the creative buzz of Turnberry. He returned in 2008 as Chef de Cuisine and oversaw the hotel’s re-launch of its kitchens, recreated the food offering and preparing for the return of The Open Championship in July 2009. Now Turnberry’s Executive Chef, Justin oversees the full food and drink offering at the resort.
Colin Kelly is a broadcaster and journalist regularly seen and heard discussing gadgets and technology on television and radio. He’s best known for his time as resident gadget expert on STV’s ‘The Hour’ and has previously presented programmes on BBC Radio Scotland, Real Radio and Clyde 1. He’s been a newspaper columnist and is a regular blogger through his websitewww.colinkelly.net. Much of Colin’s work these days is with Hillington based digital consultancy NSDesign where Colin travels the country delivering social media training to a wide range of businesses and public sector organisations.
Hailing from Cape Town, but now resident in Edinburgh, John Cooke is a professional writer. John is one of the lead reviewers and section editors for The List Magazine’s Eating and Drinking Guide. John also writes regularly for The Larder magazine and its regional offshoots, covering a variety of Scottish foods and specialist producers, farmers and fishermen. John has been a judge at the Great Taste Awards and the One World Chutney competition and is part of Slow Food Edinburgh, promoting food that is ‘good, clean and fair’.
Darren McKean is a professional food photographer based in South West Scotland. A lifelong foodie, he is now on the final countdown to his 40th birthday. Together with his wife Fiona he runs Fiona McKean Photography. Darren’s interest in food photography was sparked whilst photographing weddings with Fiona. Says Darren, ‘some of the food was so impressive and I found myself drawn to photographing it’. He took the decision to concentrate solely on food early in 2011, with his first commercially styled shoot for an artisan bakery and he has never looked back.Darren has now worked with a range of food producers, suppliers and restaurants along with supplying a leading food imagery agency with his mouthwatering delights!
Christopher Trotter is a well known Food Writer and Consultant, with 5 books on cooking and food under his belt including ‘The Scottish Cookery Book’ and ‘The Whole Hog’. An acknowledged expert on cooking and Scottish produce Chris is currently working on his Food Tours, Cooking Classes and team building programmes using food and cooking in workshops. Chris has researched for major Food Guides and written for a variety of media including the List’s Fife Larder and the Fife Diet and is a regular on the BBC Kitchen cafe on radio.

A Head Full of Fluff and Syrup.

A Head Full of Fluff and Syrup.

My bath is running so I thought I may as well write something to kill a little time.  News? Erm…I’ve been up since about 5.45am if that counts as news?  Heard noises downstairs and wandered down to see what was going on. Found Sausage running around like a lunatic and Darlek perched on the sofa looking dazed wearing her ‘princess’ outfit for the Jubilee celebrations.  She said that they’d been watching commercials about something called the ‘non-non leg shaver’ (or something along those lines for a while as kids’ tv hadn’t started and she was desperate to occupy Sausage.  My youngest had obviously woken up literally at the crack of dawn and had decided to annoy his sister, being the thoughtful soul he is. I tried without success to get them both back to bed, gave up, went back upstairs and found Horace snoring like his life depended on it, so I collapsed in Darlek’s bed for a while.  Consequently my brain has felt like its full of fluff and syrup all day.  Tired much?

In other news not involving fluff and syrup, Sausage has been accepted at the same school as his sister which is a huge relief.  I was a disorganised moo and handed his application for education in months late, consequently he was offered a school that was totally impractical and I had to appeal / beg them to change their minds.  I’d have had to split myself in two to get them both to school on time, and since cloning has not yet been invented, it would have been completely impossible. Thankfully the appeal has gone through, and I am very relieved indeed. *wipes sweat from brow*

Darlek has sat her SAT’s in a satisfactory manner. Geddit…nudge nudge.  She has in fact done really well which is brilliant.  I’m still not over the moon that she’s only 7 years old and is having to put up with the pressure of exams, but that’s just the British education system.  The night before she started her tests I found her sobbing in her bedroom, absolutely inconsolable – she was worried that she wouldn’t be good enough and that she’d have to move down groups or something.  Unbelievable!  I had to cuddle her to sleep she was so upset, I was in tears afterwards with the frustration of it all.  My daughter is in the education system and is subject to their curriculum and rules, so there’s very little I can do.  But I hate that a child of that age can possibly be scared of failing.  All she should be worrying about is whether or not she has enough Squinkies.

Anyway!  On the upside Sausage is his cheery aggravating self and is looking forward to school.  He’s developing his sense of humour beautifully and has been practising jokes, mainly about poo. For example ‘How do cows get out of mud?’ Answer ‘With poo on their heads.’  He usually giggles hysterically after gems such as this and I have to laugh because it makes absolutely no sense at all and is all the funnier because of it.   Have I already related this story on here?  I hope not.  Honestly I’m going nuts.  I spent half of today thinking it was Wednesday, when it is blatantly Tuesday.

My news is that I found a copy of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Veg Cook book for a tenner at a second hand book sale at the weekend, and my sister has bought me a beautiful recipe book holder for my birthday.  So I have lovingly set both up in my kitchen and pretend to be Nigella Lawson at every opportunity, usually that just involves me flicking my hair slightly and licking my fingers tips seductively whilst ripping a roast chicken in half.  Like that works! *rolls eyes*  My mother-in-law has a copy of the same book and I am blatantly copying her book choices.  Let’s see who can make a herby, nutty, noodly cucumber salady thing first eh Sweara!  Race ya!

Actually I have already made the above, but it was considered inedible by almost the whole family so I must have done it wrong somehow so I count that as a false start.  Today I planned to do an egg plant, tomato thingy and bought 3 medium sized aubergines and a huge block of strong cheese in preparation.  I got home after the school run and unfortunately I was foiled by the syrup and fluff in my head so ended up making spag bol with a jar of Ragu instead. Another false start.  Tomorrow I will try again, and will probably end up making beans on toast instead or defrosty tea.   Maybe a fluff and syrup recipe would be easier to attempt.  Watch this space.  Actually don’t.  It would probably be very messy, and sticky and would mean I’d have to use a spatula to destick my children from their dinner plates.  The dishwasher probably wouldn’t like it either. Maybe I won’t try that after all.

And on that note, my bath is ready, I’m tired, should have watered some plants today, have a pile of washing sweating in the washing machine, need to sort Darlek’s school uniform for tomorrow and am generally mucking about on here to avoid doing things I should be doing.  Story of my life! *ambles off for bath*

Half Way House Fish Pie

Half Way House Fish Pie

Darlek doesn’t like fish.  She used to eat tons of it when she was little, but has since started pulling faces and gipping if I try to feed it to her now.  This is a huge shame as we all know fish is good for us, it has Omega Whatzisname in it, and is ‘brain food’ apparently.  But nope!  Dalek is adamant that she really does not like the stuff.

The thing is, I do try to include it in the family’s diet, and I don’t like to pander / panda to separate meals so, this is my Half Way House Fish Pie recipe.  It’s a fish pie that isn’t too fishy, even Darlek manages to eat the majority of it.

So you get your casserole dish out first, mine is a lovely one one from Denby products which I adore.  Sorry to show it off, but it’s my pride and joy at the moment.

I thought the Lillies looked pretty reflected on the pottery.

Step One:  Put Fish Pie mix (easily picked up at the supermarket) in the microwave on a defrost function and cook it very slowly so it doesn’t get overdone and go crunchy.  Once the fish is cooked through and flaking slightly, put it in the dish.

Fish in dish. Dish with fish! (Apologies I’m having a Dr Zeuss moment)

I don’t cook the fish in milk as some people do, because if you use that milk with the fish juices in the mashed potato, Darlek refuses to eat it.

Step Two: Part A.  Make a white sauce.  Again I take the easy route, I don’t use a roux.  I put roughly equal amounts of butter, flour and milk all in a pan, heat it and whisk as I go along.  If it doesn’t thicken add more flour.

Step Two: Part B.  Fend off the kids who are by now usually clamouring for their dinner.  Give them a pot of raisins each and shoo them out of the kitchen.

Haphazardly make a white sauce. Taste as you go to make sure it’s not too floury. Do not burn your tongue!

Step Three: Part A  – Add the white sauce to the fish in the dish and add a dash of pepper, and parsley if you have any.

Step Three: Part B – Stop Sausage from raiding the fridge and palm him off with dried apricots this time.

White sauce on fish in dish, fish in dish in white sauce. I’m on a roll with this Doctor Zeuss thing now.

Meanwhile boil peeled and cubed potatoes and steam spinach above the pan to save on gas.  You see I’m practical as well as pretty….well actually I’m probably neither, but it rhymed and fits in with the random Dr Zeuss thing I’ve got going on.

Spinach in pan over boiling spuds, spuds in pan under boiling spinach. I HAVE to find a way to fit a Fox in Socks into this recipe somehow…..

Step Four: Carefully and evenly distribute the spinach over the fish in the dish.

Step Five: Part A – Mash the spuds with ordinary unfishy moo cow milk and butter and spread it carefully on the top of the fish in the dish and the spinach.  I say carefully because it tends to sink if you tip a load in at once.  I find the blobbing here and there approach works best for me.

Step Five: Part B – Yell at the kids who have nicked Babybels whilst I was distracted.

Make a pretty pattern on the top of the mash, personally I like swirls.

Step Six: Part A – Slice and add Mozzarella to the top of the fish in the dish coated with spinach.   The Mozarella I had was square shaped so I played at cheese crazy paving for a little while.

I should do one of those crazy paving paths in our garden, seems I have a talent for this kind of thing!

Chuck the whole lot in the oven and leave for around 25 minutes at about 180 C, just to let it toast and go golden on top.  Serve with a crunchy salad or green beans and sweetcorn if you prefer. We had a salad because I was lazy.

Step 8: Eat!!!!!!!  You’ll find that this is probably the least fishy fish pie ever.  A nice Half Way House Fish Pie for kids who don’t like fish.

Step 9: Finish with a nice cup of herbal tea in some Cath Kidston bedding……erm I mean, a Cath Kidston cup.  And ….relax….

Tea in a cup, no pup in the cup though. Which is a shame. Dr Zeuss eat your heart out!

This is a sponsored post thanks to Palmers Department Stores who kindly sent me the gorgeous Denby Casserole dish and the cute cup.  Many thanks to them and no other financial reward was given.  Both dishwashered and worked exactly as you’d expect them to.  Sorry for the bedding link – I had to include it somehow!

Almost Perfect Pancakes!

Almost Perfect Pancakes!

Sponsored by my lovely food blog sponsors, Healthy Supplies.   Pls see the bottom of the recipe for delicious pancake ingredients you can buy from them, including egg free, gluten free, wheat free, powdered recipe substitutes.  If you have allergies you don’t have to miss out on pancakes, you can simply adapt them. 

I have a confession to make.  I bought pancakes ready made from a shop last year because I couldn’t face having to make them, it’s a bit shameful really.  They are such a simple recipe, but I’ve just never mastered the art of cooking them properly. Every single time I’ve tried I have ended up with half cooked globs of goo, and definitely not in neat circles, usually flattish semicircles because of failed ‘flipping’ attempts.

Practise for Pancake Day!

This year I decided to have another go, ‘I will not be beaten by Pancakes!’ I thought in a daring kind of voice.  Recently I’ve been trying out quite a few Jamie Oliver recipes from his Ministry of Food cook book, and I’m really quite impressed.  The recipes seem easy to follow, not overly fussy, don’t include excesses of wierd ingredients I can’t source from my local supermarket and he makes me laugh with his casual turn of phrase sometimes: eg …….. ‘Bhajis are a great thing to eat with your curry (especially after a few drinks!)’  Horace can’t stand the sight of the poor man, I think he’s cute but don’t tell him.  He never reads these blogs so I think I’ll get away with that.  Shush…..

Kay studies the simplest recipe in the world very carefully.....

So I thought I’d see what he thought of making pancakes, and I was pleasantly surprised again.  He works with the american style ‘Cups’ here, and really does actually show a mug on the recipe page.  The idea quite literally is, as long as you use the same measuring tool each time and fill it to the full, you can’t go wrong.  I love recipes that you can’t go wrong with *hugs recipe book*.   The detailed recipe is at the bottom of this post.   It’s adapted a little, Jamie suggested putting yoghurt and mango in and the cupboard was bare so I just made do with what I had.

This recipe tells you how to make lighter fluffier American style pancakes as well as the flatter traditional english ones.  I thought I’d have a go at the American ones, just to see if they were any easier.  Literally, the only difference is that you have to use self-raising flour instead of plain flour, simple as!  So off I went, cracking eggs and mixing milk, a nip of salt, a kerflop of flour.  (I just made ‘kerflop’ up, it does sound like that when you dump a load of flour in liquid don’t you think?  Or is it just me that thinks that?)

Please note the ladybird design nail varnish. I was bored. Darlek helped, my other nails look like squashed ladybirds. None got in the recipe you'll be pleased to know.

Whisk enthusiastically!

I left the mixture in the fridge covered with cling film for a while although I’m not sure if this makes any difference or not really.  I’ve heard this is one of those urban myths except with a cooking edge to it.  And then…….the real cooking began.  This is the bit where it usually all goes tits up for me.

The heat is on!!!

The butter went in the frying pan at a medium heat, and as soon as it started smoking slightly I took a ladlefull and plopped it in.  They always cook so quickly it usually panics me into a gooey mixture poking frenzy where I spread the batter all over the place as if it’s been dropped from a 50 foot height.  This time I held back from pushing the frying batter all over the plan and just watched it for about a minute, and then I slid the spatula under the sizzling gloop and flipped it over, whilst still….SHOCK…HORROR…. still in an approximate circle that looks like a pancake!

Make them smaller, they're easier to flip!

I left them for approx another minute and then slid them off the frying pan and onto a plate.  Then, and I think this is an important bit, I carefully used some kitchen roll to wipe the pan clean of brown, slightly burnt looking butter, added more butter, and then started again.  Hence lovely golden pancakes instead of muddy looking ones.  A great tip I thought!

Snippet of conversation mid writing flow when I forgot the word for ‘Spatula’

Me:  ‘ What’s do you call that erm…… (does hand sliding under pancake gesture)……erm …spatula!

Horace: ‘I dunno what you call your spatula……. Fred maybe?’  (helpful as always)

I only made small ones too, so I fitted about four pancakes in one pan.  That made them a lot easier to flip over, although I didn’t try the spectacular-triple flipping-near-the-light-fittings kind of thing.  I’m just not brave enough for that.

Lovely with lemon!

This is how they turned out!  What do you think?  They are by no means perfect, but they were edible, reasonably pancaked shaped and not burnt. I droodled maple syrup over them and added a traditional squeeze of lemon. (‘Droodling’ another made up word which is a mixture of dribbling and noodles, exactly how you squiggle maple syrup on a pancake I’d say, I always go for noodling patterns).

You could always do as we did and add a bit of dessicated coconut and fruit too if you like.  Healthy Supplies sell some lovely Dessicated Organic Coconut which  complements these pancakes nicely.

Can you guess what it is yet? (Rolf Harris Tone of Voice)

These pancakes were delicious if I say so myself.  I don’t know if I’ve been using the wrong recipe all these years, or if simply substituting self raising flour for plain flour has been the saviour of my pancaking skills, either way, I highly recommend having a go at this!  You (probably) won’t ever need to buy shop bought ones and try and pass them off as your own ever again. Not that I ever did that.  I’d never do that.  ;O)

If you would prefer to make this with Gluten and Wheat Free Self Raising Flour, you can find it here under ‘Dove’s Farm Gluten Free Self-Raising White Flour.’  You could even use Milk Powder, so you can always have milk in your cupboards even when your fridge is empty.  I’d never heard of the ingredients prior to this, useful stuff I thought, you see we have milk monsters at our house.  They drink the lot when I’m not looking!  There’s also something called ‘Oggran No Egg’ you can buy which is an egg replacer ingredient which I have to say I’ve never tried.  If you do have a go at pancakes and use the no egg ingredients I’d love to how it tastes and if it works or not.

There are other fabulous pancake recipes on Healthy Supplies’ website if you fancy being more daring than me! Pls click HERE if you’d like to have a look.

Recipe from Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food

American Style Pancakes: 1 Cup of Self Raising Flour, 1 Cup of Milk, Sea Salt, 25g of Butter, 1 Egg (preferably free range), and 1 Lemon or Lemon Juice.

Crack egg into a large mixing bowl.

Add flour milk and a pinch of sea salt and whisk it all together.

Put the batter in the fridge for a bit, maybe 20 mins or so.

Place one ladleful of batter into the saucepan for each pancake, you should be able to cook approx four at a time.

Fry on a medium to high heat for 1-2 minutes on each side.

Place cooked pancakes on a warmed plate, wipe the saucepan clean with kitchen roll.

Start again!  Repeat until all the batter has gone.

Eat too many, feel vaguely sick.  (That bit’s not in the recipe, it’s just what I did)

Cheshire Food Festival!

Cheshire Food Festival!

Today we went on a foodie adventure!

I was lucky enough to win a family ticket to Cheshire Food Festival courtesy of @KidsNorthWest, so today we got our rucksack packed with spare pants for Sausage, changes of tops in case of drinks disasters and wet wipes for all eventualities.  The rest of the room left in the bag was reserved for food of course!  When in Rome as they say…

Horace is obsessive about his coffee, I was worried about him driving off with this little car when they weren't looking.

We arrived at midday at Walton Hall grounds and parked up.  The kids were very excited and expected the place to be afloat with liquid chocolate I think.  I suspect they were a little disappointed when they arrived to find marquees and food stalls, but their spirits definitely rose when we began wandering around.  This was mainly because so many of the stalls were offering samples for people to taste, and my kids are never behind the door when it comes to food, free or otherwise.  I was equally happy to try any sample wafted in front of my nose.  It’s a great way to sell things, you’re not just judging things by way of their pretty packaging, you actually know how things taste and if you like them.

No, it doesn't bite.

Our two decided they wanted their faces painting, so for £1 each they became ‘Piderman’ (Spiderman) and Flower Girl!  Sausage looked positively scary, and looked even scarier after about half an hour had passed – he kept pawing at his face and all the colours merged until he looked like he’d spent all afternoon alternating  between being sunburnt and down a coalmine.

It was a brilliant location, Walton Hall has a free children’s zoo with a lovely selection of different poultry, donkeys, peacocks, red squirrels, pigs, guinea fowl, parrakeets & others I can’t remember the names of; there is a large playground for kids of all ages; a crazy golf set up; a bowling green (I think that’s what it was) and oodles of room for children to run around in.  This was ideal, as our two did find the event interesting, but there’s only so much chutney a 3 year old and a 6 year old can look at.

Cake!!!!

In Walton Hall itself they had some cooking demonstrations, along with the face painting, the children’s crafts and the craft market.  I sat in on one of the cooking demonstrations, but Sausage and Darlek were rather bored so we set off to the park instead.  It was a shame as it seemed very interesting.  I was pleased and excited to see the chef recommending Smash as an ingredient to use in fishcakes, you see I knew I was a excellent chef all along!  This I already do!! (polishes halo)

Toothache in a box, but it was worth it! Four fabulous flavours of fudge!

My one bug bear (is that the phrase?) is that we decided to buy lunch there, this was because we were sure there’d be some gorgeous food on offer.   As it was, there was a huge range, but I stupidly forgot the extortionate prices of takeaway food at festivals.  For three cheeseburgers, one ham and cheese pancake and a can of coke, it set us back just over £16.  Scary and we should have taken a packed lunch!  To be absolutely honest, you’d think that at a ‘Food Festival’ there’d be discounts on produce maybe?  Perhaps I’m naive, but I did get the impression that most of the prices had been hoicked up a quid or two. Still, it would have been impossible to have left without buying something!

We have enough bread to satisfy even the hungriest of bread monsters.

Creem Egg and Skittles flavoured vodka. Sweeeet! ;O)

Definitely my favourite of all the chutneys we tasted! I'm hoping it will help me see in the dark too.

I very nearly bought some Sticky Toffee Cheese but changed my mind at the last minute. There was every variety you could think of!

My absolute favourite buy! Sips of this brought to mind slightly floral mead and sweet sherry. Heaven in a bottle!

We set off home at 4pm, having had a really lovely day out.  It worked out so well because of the variety of activities.  Genuinely there really was something for every age and taste.  Many thanks for @KidsNorthWest for the tickets and for @CheshireFoodFes for organising such a fabulous do.  Keep it up!

If you’d like to visit @KidsNorthWest’s website please click HERE!  They have a ton of places to go listed on there along with special offers and more.

The website for Cheshire Food Festival is HERE if you want to see what what was on offer and what to look out for next year.

Alternatively, Walton Hall is a great place to visit even when the festival isn’t on, if you’d like to visit their website for details, please click HERE!

This is not a sponsored post, we just had such a good time, I wanted to blog about it :O)

Chicken A-La Can O’ Sprite!

Chicken A-La Can O’ Sprite!

Anyone remember my FishyDishyCookery cookery stunt?  Well, I figured it was time I at least had a go at a follow up blog post.  My friend Jane came up with this a while ago, and I thought, well why not!  It’s suitably bizarre, and it just might work!

In a nutshell I cooked a roast chicken with a can of pop inserted into its cavity. Yes really! Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it.  Did it explode in the oven?  Did Horace try to commit me to the funny farm or complain about not ‘having normal teas anymore’?  Read on and find out….

Here’s the main ingredients list.  Please ignore the olive oil and the peppercorn grinder, I didn’t use either in the end – my Photoshop skills are none-existant so I couldn’t edit it out afterwards.

That's an empty can of Coca Cola if you were wondering. I half filled it with Sprite :O)

The ingredients list is easy peasy:  Whole free range chicken, Harissa Spice Mix, Empty can of Coca Cola, Sprite (If you can find a can of Sprite that’s even better!) and Butter.

I wanted to find a can of Sprite but they were all hiding in the local shops so I got Coca Cola instead and drank it so I had an empty can I could partially fill with Sprite.  Just as a thought if you’re ever thinking of trying this, apparently Coca Cola works well too!  I can’t imagine it personally, but then I never imagined Sprite and chicken working well either, so maybe it’s worth a try.

Next step was to smear above chicken in butter mixed with Moroccan Harissa spices, courtesy of the lovely Healthy Supplies, my food blog sponsors.  The idea was that Sprite is lemony, and everyone has heard of lemon chicken haven’t they? – so hence the fizzy stuff.  Harissa Spice is my new favourite spice of the moment and I love it.  It reminds me of the taste of stuffing, except with an edge of peppers and tongue tinglyness – so that’s why I chose to use that.  I suppose you could say I’ve made fizzy lemon chicken with spicy stuffing flavouring.

Harissa Spice and Butter - Use as much as you think your tastebuds can cope with, I used approx a teaspoon with about 2oz of butter.

Chicken smeared with spices and with can of Sprite inserted up it's erm...bottom? I don't know what sounds worse, 'cavity' or 'bottom'. I suppose I'm only telling it how it is!

At this point I grimaced and thought, ew!  ‘There’s just no way of making this shot look attractive’ and then…….I had a brainwave!

All he's missing is a bread stick for a cane. It would have gone perfectly with his top hat.

I’d had a particularly bad housework day so whilst all this cooking was going on, the kids were merrily wrecking the living room.  Horace arrived home to find a bombsite of a home, and me decorating a raw chicken with a yoghurt pot top hat gherkin eyebrows, peppercorn eyes,  and a red pepper mouth.  Thankfully he seemed to find it all as amusing as I did and forgave me for being a completely crap housewife.  He didn’t ring the hospital and try and get me committed either so that was great.  Phew!

I removed all of the decorations before this went in the oven by the way, for aesthetic’s sake.  I just wouldn’t have been able to cope with watching my new chicken friend staring out of the oven at me reproachfully whilst burning to a crisp.  It would have felt very mean.

So, anyway!  The half full can of Sprite inserted very easily into the erm…chickens’s bum (my technical terms are failing me terribly), and I pulled the legs forward so it was like a little chicken tripod with the can holding up the rear.  I imagined fighting with a slippery, obstinate, falling over floppy chicken, but nope! It was easy!  You just have to be careful when you pick up the chicken on the tray as it’s more unstable than usual.  You do need to make sure you have enough room to stand the chicken upright in the oven too, so you might have to remove a shelf or two.

Does anyone else think that this looks like a headless version of one of the critters from the Dr Zeus books? Or is it just me? Probably....

I treated this as a completely normal roast chicken and cooked it for 20 minutes per pound, with an extra 20 minutes added on.  When the juices ran clean and the flesh was no longer pink, I knew it was ok to eat.

Now comes the difficult bit!  Very carefully remove this from the oven, no wobbling or slamming it around.  The Sprite is at boiling temperature and you do not want to spill it!

Removing a can from a scalding hot roast chicken’s rear end, is no mean feat I have to warn you!  Obviously the can contains steaming hot liquid so you have to be careful of spillage.  I think it’s a two person job personally.  One person has to hold the chicken up, and the other person has to remove the can.  I used two forks stabbed into the chicken to hold it up and my mum (who was quite baffled with the whole affair) scrabbled at the can with a spoon until it fell out.  If you have tongs I think they’re probably the best method.

The can was completely intact, even after the chicken cooking ordeal! I think the woman looks a bit traumatised though.

I have to say, this method works surprisingly well even if it does look a little odd! The meat is very, very moist – if you’ve ever used a microwave to cook a chicken, it’s even more moist than that.  The liquid in the can quite literally steams it from the inside out.  I didn’t find that the Sprite flavoured the meat particularly, but it did definitely stop the chicken from drying out.  Next time I’ll use Coca-Cola and see if that has a stronger taste. The skin was lovely! Crunchy and spicy! I’d definitely recommend adding something like Harissa spice to the skin, as it adds a bit of fizz to a traditional english dish (discounting the can bit of course).

If you are a little worried about the can leaching chemicals into your food, it’s fine!  There’s been tests, google it if you’re worried.  As you can see from the photo above, the can came out completely unscathed although I think the woman’s grin is a little forced to be honest. Can’t blame her really!

All in all, try it!  You might actually like it, and it’s very easy and practical too! You can tell that to your partner as you insert a can of Vimto (for example)  into your uncooked sunday roast; whilst they stand, hand on hips, staring at you like you’ve gone completely loopy.

Many thanks to Healthy Supplies for providing the Spices and to Jane from JanesGrapevine for the inspiration for this.  You can visit both sites by clicking on their names if you like.  :O)