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Sunday, 21 December 2014

The 3D Christmas Cookie Kit from Parragon Books *REVIEW*

For this months Parragon cookery book review I was sent The 3D Christmas Cookie Kit, which is a sweet little set comprising of a paperback recipe book, and two sets of plastic 3D cookie cutters in the shapes of Christmas trees and snowmen. It all comes in a little box with magnetic fastening, and would be the perfect little gift for any budding young bakers out there. 

The 3D Christmas Cookie Kit is currently available on Amazon for £12.

The recipe book that comes in the kit includes 12 recipes:

-3D Christmas tree cookies
-3D Snowman cookies
-Rudolph cookies
-Santa cookies
-Spiral cookies
-Mini gingerbread house cookies
-Stained glass cookies
-Candy cane cookies
-Meting snowman cookies
-Christmas bauble cookies
-Cracker surprise cookies

As well as a good introduction and the basic cookie dough recipe, which you adapt/manipulate differently for each of the recipes. 

Each recipe comes with fab full colour step-by-step pictures, so you're sure you're doing things right when you're baking at home, as well as full written instructions, ingredients lists and advice on decorating. 

Of course, as with all my cookery book reviews I had to give some of the recipes a go - I decided to make up the basic dough recipe in the book, and use it to try out both of the 3D cookie cutters that come in the kit: the snowman and Christmas tree. 


Busy making christmas trees!

Trying my hand at some 3D snowmen...

The dough recipe was really straight forward and simple to make, I followed all the instructions, coloured my dough using gel food colouring, and let it rest in the fridge for around 20 minutes before I rolled it out, and used my cookie cutters to cut out the trees and snowmen. They baked for 18 minutes until golden, and then I left them to cool completely before decorating. 

The cookies spread a little when baking and require recutting/trimming using the cutters  after they bake to ensure that they will slot together after decorating. It doesn't say to do this in the book, but previous baking experience told me to trim them up before they cooled (and become less pliable/more likely to break). 

I then set to work on the fun stuff - decorating! If you're baking these with kids this is when they will be in their element - you can really go to town with coloured icing, sprinkles, sparkles etc. I coloured royal icing using gel food colours and then smoothed it out with a palette knife, I then re-baked my cookies on my ovens lowest temperature for 15 minutes to set the royal icing, before adding the intricate decorations using a tiny icing piping bag. Again, it doesn't say to do this in the recipe book, but I know from baking previous decorated cookies that it is best to set the royal icing hard before adding detail. I also sprayed some Milky Way Stars using edible Gold spray to make the tops of my Christmas tree cookies extra sparkly! 

After the decorating was finished I found I had to re-trim the cookies in order for them to slot together, as the icing was quite thick, and was preventing them slotting together nicely. This was a pretty fiddly job, and I'm not going to lie, there were a few snowman casualties: luckily, hubby was on hand to taste test the broken one! You could easily glue any breaks back together with the royal icing, if necessary - or just ensure your icing isn't too thick (unlike mine). 

Hubby was happy to taste test the cookies for me, thanks Liam! 

Some of my 3D Christmas tree and snowmen cookies! 

Not bad for a first attempt using these cutters! 

I was impressed with how the cookies turned out - especially as it was my first attempt with these cutters, and I was doing it in a bit of a rush (during Bert's nap time!)...more importantly they tasted really good - buttery and delicious. Hubby may have had two or three, oops! The rest were taken round to our neighbours in a nice gift box as a festive treat!

I really enjoyed using this kit, and learnt lessons which means that next time I bake them I will find it a much easier process and will have to do less messing around with trimming the cookies so that they slot into each other perfectly. 

It would definitely be fun to bake them with kids to help: it is a shame that Bert is still too young to join me in the kitchen...maybe next year!?

If you have a budding baker at home, or know of some children who enjoy festive baking then this would be a lovely gift - and at the reasonable price of £12 too, bargain!

Happy Christmas baking to all my lovely readers - I have three exciting bakes planned for this week on the lead up to Christmas - I'll be baking Christmas Dinner Cake (which contains carrots, parsnips and SPROUTS - think carrot cake with a twist), Malteaser truffles, and Whisky Waffle Pudding - HELL YES!! 

Watch this space and I'll try to share recipes etc with you if I get chance...

Bye for now

Mrs B

xxx

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of The 3D Christmas Cookie Kit for the purpose of this review - all words, images and opinions are my own. 

You can follow Parragon Books on their social media accounts:

@parragonbooks on Twitter
Parragon Books on Facebook 
parragonbooks on Pinterest
@parragonbooks on Instagram 

Saturday, 20 December 2014

My Festive Fireplace


Festive Fire Competition Entry

Things are feeling pretty festive at Chez Bishop - the decorations are up, the cards are posted and the presents have been wrapped...Hubby just has one more day of work on Monday & then it will truly feel like Christmas. 

We have a gorgeous weekend ahead of us: hubby is running his first ever 5k park run tomorrow morning ahead of his marathon training starting in the New Year, Bert and I plan to walk to meet him after his run, get some fresh air & burn some Christmas calories, then we have a lovely lunch date with our gorgeous newlywed besties Danni & Charlie, I can't wait! 

On Sunday we're planning a mammoth 9 mile country walk (with a lovely lunch with our friends Amy & Dan sandwiched in the middle) and then plan on heading home to an evening of Christmas DVDs & red wine once Bert is tucked up in bed. Perfecto. 

Today I've had a very festive day full of my first round of Christmas baking: I made 3D Christmas cookies in the shapes of snowmen and Christmas trees for our next door neighbours' holiday gift (post to follow shortly so watch this space...!) I also put the finishing touches to our Christmas decorations today...

This year we've had to slightly alter how we decorate our house for Christmas, with an inquisitive toddler like Bert around we figured we couldn't get away with our beautiful (and expensive) pre-lit twig tree in the living room, as we have done on previous years, for fear of it not lasting longer that 5 minutes before it is broken, or Bert is broken: one or the other. Instead, we've turned our dining room into our own little Christmas grotto, with tree, fairy lights and wrapped gifts galore and kept things simple in the living room. 

Our fireplace is totally our of bounds to Bert thanks to a large fire guard that clips around it, so to make the room look festive without the worry that Bert will toddler-destroy it all, we have decorated only the fireplace. I think you'll agree it looks very festive! 

Our festive fireplace complete with stockings, Santa's sack, a wicker Christmas bell, fabric Christmas tree, glitter star and stag, fairy lights, light up Santa and Rudolph, Christmas angel, a pair of robins, mini stocking and some mulled wine scented candles...Mmmm it even smells like Christmas.

Are you all ready for Christmas? Have you been organised this year, or are you currently up writing Christmas cards, in the hope that they'll still arrive it time for Christmas? (let's face it, we've ALL been there!)

Whatever you're up to this weekend I hope its full of happy things and lots of festive cheer!

Mrs B

xxx

This post is my entry into the Cast Fireplaces 'Festive Fires' competition. 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Perfect Christmas Gifts from Polagram *REVIEW*

I am obsessed with photographs. I take hundreds of photos every month from snaps of my gorgeous little Bert, to pics of what I'm eating, what I'm wearing, the cat, and what we're getting up to etc. I love to document my life in pictures, and I post photos to Instagram on a daily basis.

I also love to be surrounded by photos - not content to just have them stored in my phone, I have a house FULL of photos: from albums, to photo pockets on my doors, canvas prints on the walls, framed pictures and Instagram prints adorning every spare corner of my lovely little house. I even have pictures of Bert printed onto marshmallows! Ha! 

My little brother Reg (who is nearly 19 - I can't call him 'little' anymore, can I?) is also obsessed with photos/photography - he works as a cameraman full time, and takes loads of great photographs in his spare time. I am so proud of the man he has grown into, and I truly love the marvellous photographs he takes both at work, and in his spare time. 

Me and my 'little' brother, Reg

I find the men in my life quite hard to buy for at Christmas time, so when the people over at Polagram, the photo printing App, asked me if I'd like to review some of their products, I jumped at the chance! I knew they would have the perfect present for a photo-lover like Reg.

Polagram Gift Box

I opted to review their 36 Pola-style print Giftbox priced at £12.69 which is a hard gift box containing 36 polaroid style prints, with or without captions. As soon as I saw it I thought ut would make the perfect Christmas gift for Reg.

In order to buy a product from Polagram you need to download their free iPhone or Android app, which literally just takes a few seconds to do on your mobile device. Once downloaded you can use the App to order prints, gift boxes, posters, large prints and more! 

I found the iPhone App really simple and straight forward to use - you can connect the App straight to your Instagram, Facebook and camera roll, and just tap on which photos you'd like to use in the product (i.e gift box). For the gift box you can also add captions underneath the photo on the polaroid style print which you just add using your phones keypad - simple! 

The Polagram App - just touch which item you'd like to order and follow the on screen step by step guide!

Choosing my photos for Reg's gift box...

For the gift box I selected 36 of Reg's best Instagram photos (which I had previously saved to my own camera roll) and added hashtag captions underneath some which matched the captions he'd posted on the photos on his Instagram feed. Once I was happy with my selection I just pressed 'finished' and my order was complete - easy peasy! 

When the gift box arrived a couple of days later I was so pleased with it. I know Reg will absolutely love it, and I'm pretty sure he'll think of some creative way of displaying his newly printed photos in his room. 

The gift box comes in pink as standard (not a problem for my uber-macho brother who can handle a bit of pink) and is lovely quality. It contains the Polagram logo on the lid, and the base reads: 

36 lovely moments
Time flies, memories don't

Such lovely sentiment, especially at Christmas time! 

The Polagram gift box in all its glory! 

Some of Reg's FAB photos from the Polagram gift box 

Reg will just love this gift, I know it! 

I couldn't be more pleased with this gift box and I genuinely cannot WAIT to give it to Reg - I love knowing that you've got the perfect gift for someone - thanks Polagram. 

(By the way, I'm hoping that it will still remain a surprise gift as I'm pretty sure my 19 year old brother doesn't have the time/inclination to read a baking/lifestyle blog written by his boring older sister, haha! If you are reading this Reg then SURPRISE!!! HAPPY CHRISTMAS!! This is one of your Christmas gifts this year - we hope you like it!)

Polagram Poster

The second item I opted to review was the Polagram 35 Images Poster priced at £16.90 which contains 35 photos, measures 50x70 cm (20x30") and is printed on thick high quality paper. 

I chose this option as a Christmas gift for my twin sister Jojo- who lives 100 miles away. I don't get to see her nearly as often as I'd like and in order to keep in touch I send her daily photos to let her know what we're up to and how 'her boy' Bert is. She is the most amazing Auntie to little Bert I knew she would go totally bonkers over a collage poster of Bert pics, so I couldn't wait to put one together for her. 

Me and my gorgeous twin sister Jojo! 

Again, using the App was super simple, and even better - because I used the images directly from my camera roll which are in date taken order, the photos I chose of Bert automatically appeared on the poster in date order - so you can see him grow over the past 16 months over the 35 gorgeous shots of him - perfect! 

Now, I know for a fact that my lovely sister reads my blog religiously (bless her) as she messages me after every new post... so Jojo - SURPRISE! This is one of your Christmas gifts from us this year - it will be winging its way to you on Boxing Day ready to adorn one of the walls at your house as a constant reminder of your B Man. 

Bert from 5 minutes old - 16 months old: a collage poster print from Polagram for my sister Jo. 

The poster arrived within a couple of days, all packaged up in a hard cardboard tube to insure it arrived in perfect condition, which it did. The poster is brilliant quality, and is going to make the most perfect gift for my sister. 

We decided to purchase a frame for it, to make it an even more perfect gift. Luckily, the poster size is a standard frame size and it wasn't difficult to pick up a lovely frame for it on the high street. It looks super impressive and even more beautiful now that it is all ready to hang...

In its frame and ready to wrap up for Christmas! 

We had to have a peek of it up on wall - I think you'll agree it looks fab! 

I can't wait for Jo to open this and see it in the flesh, and I'm looking forward to seeing where she decides to hang it in her home. 

I hope you'll agree that it is a really beautiful and thoughtful gift, and I think that at a combined cost of £34.90 (£16.90 for the poster + £18 for the frame), it is a very good value purchase. It really is the perfect gift for anyone who needs some last minute Chirstmas gift inspiration! The same goes for the gift box! If you know someone who loves photos as much as me and my family, then look no further, Polagram will have the perfect gift for you. 

MERRY CHRISTMAS & GOOD LUCK with all your final bits of Christmas shopping!

Love 

Mrs B

xxx

You can follow Polagram on their social media pages:

Polagram on Facebook 
@polagram on Twitter
polagramapp on Instagram 
polagram on Pinterest



Disclaimer: I was sent a gift box and poster print from Polagram for the purpose of this review - all words, opinions and images are my own. 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Figgy's Christmas Pudding *REVIEW*

Anyone who reads my blog regularly will know how much I love to bake. I rarely need a reason to get into the kitchen and cook up a storm, but sometimes I find this time of year a little overwhelming and stressful on the cooking front. Each Christmas I find myself a bit over-worked or out of steam when it comes to baking festive treats. 

This year I vowed I'd be a bit kinder on myself and not put tons of pressure on to hand make/bake so much that I lose the plot! Instead, I've chosen a few key gifts to make and treats to bake, and for the rest I am relying on good ready-made alternatives. 

In my opinion, there is NOTHING wrong with buying in time-saving alternatives to homemade foods at Christmas as long as you don't have to scrimp on quality and flavour. 

Christmas Pudding is one of my all-time favourite Christmas treats, and I am yet to have a go at making one from scratch. I will...one day I will definitely get around to making my own Christmas pudding months in advance, and I will lovingly steep the fruits in booze, and steam the pud' for hours on end in my kitchen, but this year (the same as all the others) I'm opting for a bought pudding - and I whole heartedly recommend a Figgy's Christmas Pudding if you haven't bought yours yet. 

Figgy's puddings is run by husband and wife team Richie and Jo Evans who, based in Devon, lovingly hand make, wrap and dispatch all their puddings themselves, in small batches, so you can be sure you're buying a Christmas Pudding that really is just as you'd make yourself at home. Open for business since 2007, Figgy's has gone from strength to strength and now sells their puddings all over the UK and Europe. Figgy's Christmas Puddings have won various awards including 'Best Dessert' and a Gold Award in the Taste of West Awards 2014. 

Figgy's Puddings come in three sizes:
Small (serves 2-3) priced at £10
Medium (serves 4-6) priced at £15
Large (serves 8-10) priced at £20

We were sent a Medium Christmas Pudding (550g) to try out - and I can honestly say it was one of the best Christmas puddings I've ever tasted (and I've sampled a fair few over the years).

Figgy's Christmas Pudding 

What Figgy's say about their puds...

"We make all our Christmas Puddings by hand in our small bakery near Exeter in Devon. We’ve always made puddings for our friends and family and so have perfected our recipe over many years. As our business has grown, we've never forgotten that a good homemade Christmas Pudding takes time to create and cannot be rushed. We make each one with the same care that we did when we were making a handful for our friends and family.

We’ve also searched hard to find the best ingredients, many from local producers and suppliers. We've learnt that a truly luxurious Christmas Pudding requires the combination of a hearty real ale and a fine brandy, both of which we have on our doorstep. We use the fabulous Port Stout made by the Devon-based O’Hanlon's Brewery, and the warm and rich 10-year-old Somerset Cider Brandy made by the Somerset Distillery. Both of which we also highly recommend for after dinner relaxation!

Our puddings are steamed in ceramic bowls, allowing the flavours to develop to their full potential and producing a far superior result to plastic. The bowls are then wrapped in a cotton pudding cloth, allowing the pudding to breathe and the flavours to mature in the traditional way."

What I have to say about the Figgy's pudding we tried...

Figgy's recommend that you steam their medium pudding for 1.5 hours for best results, and so we followed the instructions exactly, and found it very easy to do (I'd never steamed a pudding before). We then heated some of our favourite whisky and flamed the steamed pudding to perfection - you can't have a Christmas pudding and not set it alight, even if its not Christmas Day! 

Flamin' marvellous! 

We portioned the medium pudding into four servings (over two nights) for hubby and me, and found it to be an ample portion for 4 - personally (because we're greedy) I would have found it a little on the stingy side if I'd been trying to feed more than four with this pudding, so if you are feeding 5 or more I would opt for the large pudding alternative. 

We served our warm Christmas pudding with a drizzle of double cream on the first night, and with thick and boozy cherry/chocolate cream on the second (we microwaved our portions on the second night to re-heat and it still tasted just as delicious). I would whole heartedly recommend you steam your pudding for best results, we only microwaved the leftovers as there was only two of us eating the pudding, and it would have been a bit too greedy (even for us) to eat half each in one sitting. 

The pudding itself was the lightest Christmas pudding I've ever tasted. It didn't sit heavy with me afterwards, and I didn't have that slightly sick feeling after I'd eaten it which I so often get with very rich desserts, making Figgy's the perfect pudding to opt for if, like us, you are planning to eat an epic feast of a Christmas dinner this year, and want something slightly lighter to follow.  

Perhaps conversely for a traditional Christmas pudding, the Figgy's pudding wasn't overly boozy in flavour. There was a delicious hint of alcohol but it wasn't too strong, and it didn't overpower the flavour of the warming spices and unctuous fruit. I love boozy desserts (the boozier the better in my opinion) but hubby prefers things to only be lightly spiked with alcohol - so this pudding was truly perfect in his eyes. It would also be great if you're planning on sharing your Christmas pud' with the kids this Christmas - they so often hate the taste of anything boozy flavoured, so I'm pretty confident they would enjoy this Christmas pudding without any fuss. 

Costing around £2.50 - £3.75 a portion (depending on which size pud' you buy) a Figgy's pudding is great value for money in my opinion - anyone who has ever baked a pudding containing oodles of dried fruit and various alcohols before will know how expensive the cost of the ingredients are, and we've all eaten desserts out enough to know that £3.75 is a great price per head - especially when you get to eat something of this quality! 

Yummy warm Figgy's Christmas pudding with double cream

Some of the best things about buying a Figgy's pudding in my opinion are ...

a) You can order your pudding online from the comfort of your own home and only pay £1.95 for UK shipping.

b) Your pudding comes beautifully packaged in a ceramic pudding basin (which you get to keep and use afterwards).

c) If you send your Figgy's pudding to a friend as a gift (what a GREAT Christmas gift!) you get a free gift card included - fabby!

d) A Figgy's pudding is so homemade looking and tasting that you could ABSOLUTELY pass it off as your own and take all the credit! Haha...as IF I would do that! :-)

There is NO TIME TO WASTE....If you want a delicious Figgy's Pudding on your table this Christmas Day then you need to make your order online by the end of Weds 17th December to guarantee delivery by Christmas - that gives you exactly 3 days and 6 hours to get yourself into gear and make your purchase!

So head over to Figgy's website and order without delay...

You won't regret it, trust me.

There's always next year to make your own! 

Mrs B

xxx

You can follow Figgy's on their social media pages too...

Figgy's on Facebook 
@figgyspuddings on Twitter 
Figgy's Puddings on Pinterest 

Disclaimer: We were sent a medium Figgy's Christmas Pudding for the purpose of this review. All words, opinions and images are my own, excluding the Figgy's logo and speech marked text taken from the Figgy's website. 

Friday, 12 December 2014

Lucy's Stocking Filler Favourites

At Christmas time I love to share with you my top picks for stocking filler ideas - this year I'm concentrating on the types of gift I personally would LOVE to receive for Christmas - I hope that some of these ideas help with your Christmas shopping, or help to finalise your own Christmas lists...

Lucy's Christmas Wishlist 2014 ...
  • I love winter, and I've always had a bit of a thing for winter accessories. I fell in love with these fur pom pom hats when I saw them first around last winter, and I totally have my eye on this Fur Pom Pom Bobble Raccoon Hat (Grey) from Poppy London priced at £35 - it would be the perfect thing to pop in a Christmas stocking for the lady in your life. (Take note family!)
Fur Pom Pom Bobble Hat
  • Again, on the winter accessories theme I love these Grey leather fingerless driving gloves from River Island priced at £22. I know I don't drive a car, but I do drive a buggy every day and walk miles and miles - so these would be both warm, and practical for me, while looking super stylish (of course!). 
Grey Leather Driving Gloves


  • I'm a big fan of fun, quirky jewellery, and as soon as I saw this Chunky Glasses Necklace by Funky Laser priced at £10, I knew I would need to make it mine at some point soon. I love Funky Laser and recently had a London skyline necklace made by them to wear to my best friends' wedding where I wore a dress by Poppy England with an illustration of the London skyline across the bottom. Back to this necklace - I'd choose it in gold glitter acyrlic with a silver plated chain I think - I love that at Funky Laser there is a huge colour range to choose from, so your jewellery can be bespoke and personal - fab! 
Geeky Glasses Necklace
  • No Christmas stocking is complete without some cosmetics, and I would be absolutely chuffed with one of these Pina Colada Lip Balms by Sweet Cecily's from Not On The High Street priced at £3.25.
Pina Colada Flavour Lip Balm
  • Continuing with the cosmetics I'm a MASSIVE fan of Essie Nail polishes: keen to expand my collection I have my eye on both of these Autumn shades: Fall in Line (green) and After School Boy Blazer (blue) both available on Amazon from £6-£9 per bottle.

Fall in Line

After School Boy Blazer
  • Again with some more quirky jewellery - as a lover of sewing and crafts, I couldn't resist including these amazing Mustard Tape Measure Bangles by Bloom Boutique from Not On The High Street priced at £29 in my dream Christmas stocking - if you know a lover of crafting & sewing, these are the absolute PERFECT gifts for them. 
Tape Measure Bangles
  • Crafting supplies are the perfect addition to any Christmas stocking as they're usually pretty small and great to plug little gaps in your stocking - they're also pretty cheap, so you can get a lot for your money. I particularly love and use a lot of Washi Tape (decorative masking tape) such as these gorgeous examples from washitapes.co.uk...

Maste Grand Ribbon Blue - priced at £2.60

Maste Stripe Gold - priced at £1.95
  • I love biscuits. I love jewellery. Therefore I LOVE this Custard Cream Mini-Charm Necklace by Nikki McWilliams priced at £12.99 - it's been on my wish list for a long time now...Santa, I've been a really good girl this year, honest! 
Custard Cream Necklace

  • This Willow Teacup Planter by Ella James on Not On The High Street priced at £14.99 totally caught my eye - and I think it would be right at home in my house! It is quite small so I reckon it could be pushed into the top of a particularly stretchy stocking! Something for the house always goes down well with me - especially if it combines two of my loves: tea and flowers! 
Tea Cup Mini Planter
  • I can't consider a Christmas stocking properly filled unless I have an awesome heart warming DVD in there to watch with all the family over Christmas. My pick this year would be the absolutely awesome Richard Curtis film 'About Time' - a truly beautiful film, that makes you appreciate your family, and evokes as much laughter as it does tears - the perfect Christmassey movie in my eyes. About Time is currently priced at £5.00 on Amazon. 
About Time - a Richard Curtis masterpiece


  • A Christmas stocking cannot be considered 'finished' until there is some sort of delicious chocolate treat in there, and for me I would be hoping for some of these Luxury Gingerbread Truffles by Hotel Chocolat priced at £3.75 (for 6). Hotel Chocolat is BY FAR my favourite chocolate in the whole wide world, and I love the sound of these very Christmassey truffles: in my house I'd open them up straight away and we'd scoff them with our Christmas morning cuppa! Perfect! 
Chocolate Gingerbread Truffles 

DREAMING BIG....

  • Now then, it is nice to dream, and to aim high, so this year I've also included some higher budget stocking filler ideas (just in case we happen to win the lottery before the big day, and can stretch to some more expensive items). I totally adore this Kate Spade New York Gramercy PVD Bracelet Strap Watch priced at £225, and I would be blown away to find something this beautiful in my Christmas stocking. I've always dreamt of being surprised with a really amazing stocking full of gorgeous expensive treats, and jewellery is, of course, the perfect size to be tucked inside a Christmas stocking! 
Gramercy watch by Kate Spade New York

  • I've always had a real thing for rose gold (see my Rose Gold Love post from 2013) and I dream of one day owning the most beautiful sparkly peach sapphire/rose gold ring like this one made by Eidel Precious over on Etsy. It is priced at £2286.68, so it definitely won't be winging its way to me any time soon, but one day maybe! *dreams*
Stunning peach sapphire and rose gold ring

It's important to dream big, right?


Happy Christmas shopping to you all & I hope all of your Christmas gift dreams come true this year! 

Mrs B 

xxx

Disclaimer: I have not received any products, payment or incentives of any kind for this post - it is simply and honestly a wish list of products I truly love. 


Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Use Your Noodle by Parragon Books Love Food/Food Heroes Range *REVIEW*


The November cookbook I was sent from Parragon Books is Use Your Noodle - Recipes for Ramen, Soba, Udon and Other Noodles. This full-colour, 128 page paperback cookbook is full to bursting with noodle-based dishes to wow your tastebuds. 

"Take a fresh look at the world of the noodle. With an abundance of recipes using ramen, soba & udon noodles, as well as the classic egg and rice noodles, this cookbook covers all bases. With delicious soups and salads through to amazing mouth-watering mains, and fantastically light dishes to those with a real chilli kick, Use Your Noodle is the ultimate go-to for fast, healthy and utterly delectable noodle dishes!"

We love Asian food in our house - from a fiery Balti curry, a Thai Green Chicken curry that will blow your brains out, to a simple Chinese stir fry - we eat Asian inspired food a lot, and I love to cook them from scratch. I have my Indian curry and Thai curry recipes honed, but I'm still a bit shaky with a stir fry - I was excited to review this book as it is crammed full of lovely noodle dishes that are crying out for me to give them a go. 

When making noodle-based dishes like a stir fry, I so often see them as a 'cheat' dinner: I worry that I don't have the knowledge base to emulate a really good balanced Asian sauce with the perfect mix of hot/sweet/sour, so instead I buy a pre cut pack of veg, easy cook noodles, and a ready made sachet of sauce and then stir fry it all with a meat of our choice = the easy option.  It is always yummy and it is definitely super-quick but it feels a bit soulless - and I get that cook's guilt that all I've done is open a few packets! 

With this book you can learn some basic noodle cooking principles, some top flavour/ingredient combinations and before you know it you'll be cooking up a noodle-based storm in the kitchen without a packet sauce in sight. 

Book Overview:

  • Introduction - History of the noodle
  • A Bird in the Hand - A selection of 14 delicious recipes from Miso soup and Chicken Chow Mein to Turkey with Coriander Pesto & Soba Noodles. Also a Wok On! section on how to cook, serve and eat noodles.
  • From the Farm - A selection of 12 recipes containing meat. From Pork Ramen soup, Pork Pad Thai, and Sichuan Numbing Beef Salad, to Sesame Udon Noodles with Stir-fried Beef. Also a section called Know Your Noodles! about the different types of noodle. 
  • From the Sea - A selection of 13 recipes using fish and seafood. From Soba Noodle Nicoise Salad and Miso-glazed Cod with Soba Noodles to Spicy Sautéed Prawns in a Ramen Noodle Nest or Garlic Udon Noodles with Crabmeat. Also a section called Udon It? about the classic and best noodle partners. 
  • Veg Out - A selection of 12 vegetable-based recipes from Ramen with Pak Choi & Tofu, to Crispy Noodles with Pak Choi in Oyster Sauce and Udon Noodles with Kale & Miso. Also a section called Ramen it Home! about the health benefits of noodles. 
  • Index
Each recipe has a beautiful full colour image of the finished dish (a MUST for me when it comes to cookery books) and lots of other lovely images as well as how many people each dish serves, how long it takes to prep, and how long it takes to cook. This book doesn't contain any calorie information, I'd love it if it did - but it wasn't too hard for me to work out the calories for it, so I can forgive that one small thing. 

As usual when putting a cookery book through its paces, I had a go at one of the recipes that most caught my eye - Chicken with Udon Noodles and Peanuts. I absolutely love peanuts in food - especially when there is spice involved (Satay sauce is one of my favourites) so when I saw this recipe with a finely balanced sauce made up of fresh garlic, peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, soft brown sugar, sesame oil, cayenne pepper and water I knew I just HAD to make it. 

Udon noodles are also our favourite type of noodle - I first discovered them at a Wagamamma restaurant about 8 years ago when I tried their Ginger Chicken Udon (A mix of teppan-fried udon noodles with chicken, egg, beansprouts, red and spring onions, mangetout and chilli - garnished with pickled ginger and coriander) it was so totally delicious and the flavour combo blew my mind - it was my first but not my last taste of this dish (I order it every time I visit Wagamama and I never regret it) - so starting with an Udon noodle recipe was a must for me when approaching this book review. 
Wagamama's Ginger Chicken Udon - the inspiration for me choosing to make Chicken with Udon Noodles and Peanuts from Use Your Noodle. 


I found the sauce really easy to make - popping all of the measured ingredients into my food processor, and blitzing until I had the perfect consistency. Then in order to assemble the dish it was just a case of cooking some Udon noodles, chopping a red pepper and cucumber into matchsticks, and shredding some cooked chicken breast. The rest was simply an assembly job! 

The smells in the kitchen were divine, and my very hungry husband was salivating at the prospect of what I was about to dish up. As a rule in our house we eat all Thai/Chinese food with chopsticks - so chopsticks at the ready and a big bowl of crunchy prawn crackers on the side, I served up and we tucked in...

Chicken with Udon Noodles and Peanuts

A delicious mix of shredded chicken, red pepper, cucumber, and udon noodles in a spicy peanut sauce garnished with whole salted peanuts, fresh chilli and coriander. 

(Each portion of the Chicken with Udon Noodles and Peanuts worked out at 634 calories)

Our empty plates and being able to hear a pin drop while we ate just went to show how delicious this meal was - hubby said he'd gladly eat it every week and there's no better compliment than that from Liam! The balance of hot/sweet/sour in the sauce was incredible, and hubby said if he was served it in a restaurant he would be impressed - and I have to agree with him. 

If all the recipes in this book taste as good as this one, then I will be a happy lady! This meal will now become a regular in The Bishop Household, and I'm excited to have a go at some of the other recipes in the book....what to cook next...hmmm....

DELICIOUS! 

Use Your Noodle is priced at just £4 on the Parragon website - an absolute bargain! 

If you want a good all-rounder book for Asian cooking then this is it. 

It would make the perfect gift for a budding cook this Christmas. 

So go on, use your noodle and buy Use Your Noodle today :-)

Mrs B

xxx

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of Use Your Noodle for the purpose of this review - all words, opinions and images are my own.