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Thursday, 20 November 2014

Harris Tweed Appliqué for Beginners *GIVEAWAY*


Today on the blog I have a fab giveaway for all my fellow crafters!

I've been sent a hard copy (on disc) of this brilliant brand new eBook 'Harris Tweed Appliqué for Beginners', by Chris Hammacott to giveaway. The eBook is worth £17 and produced by Vive Books.

If you love sewing then this book is definitely for you - its full of fun, quirky and stylish craft ideas of how to use beautiful Harris Tweed for gorgeous items around your home. 

Kissing Sheep Tea Cosy

About the Book:

Create hand or machine appliqué with ‘Harris Tweed’ – in easy steps!

Chris Hammacott leads you through plump cushions, quirky tea cosies, a table runner and a wall-hanging, all given the rugged but cosy personality of ‘Harris Tweed’. Designs are inspired by Chris’s croft life on the Isle of Lewis; and her sheep, chickens, cats and pugs.The Kindle cover has reverse appliqué sheep.A scarecrow with tweed hat decorates a denim jacket; three-dimensional flowers enhance a sweater.
Follow the guidelines and techniques, and watch the author demonstrating on the video clips.Whether you are a complete beginner or a more advanced student, Chris will convince you of the wonderful qualities of ‘Harris Tweed’ for appliqué.


The cutest Kindle cover you ever did see?

Chris Hammacott has been writing about, teaching, and designing textiles for over 30 years. Trained as a weaver, she has taught City & Guilds from her own distance learning centre. Chris was expelled from her first needlecraft lesson at school and since that experience has vowed to make textiles fun! Her motto is:‘if you like it, do it some more.’ Chris’s designs have appeared in quilting magazines in Australia, Europe, the USA and UK. She writes two regular magazine columns. In 2012, with her husband Andrew, she moved to a small croft in the Outer Hebrides. In her workshop there, Chris teaches all aspects of ‘Harris Tweed’, from spinning and natural dyeing to designing items made from the wonder cloth. Andrew weaves ‘Harris Tweed’ in the old weaving shed. 


I love this beautiful bird design tea cosy: the perfect adornment for any tea pot! 

How about this fun chicken table runner? The ideal accessory for any country style dining table. 

If you fancy getting your hands on this gorgeous eBook disc then look no further - there's plenty of ways to enter, just use the Gleam App below.

THE PRIZE: 
One hard copy (disc) of Harris Tweed Appliqué for Beginners by Chris Hammacott. 

Format: enhanced ebook, approx 80 pages in PDF format on CD, with video
Packaging: CD/DVD case 190 x 135 x 7mm
Publication: 30 September 2014  

GOOD LUCK! 

Mrs B 

xxx

Harris Tweed Appliqué for Beginners eBook (disc copy) GIVEAWAY

UK entrants only
SuperLucky Blog Giveaway Linky

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Hubby Turns 30 : Simpson's in the Strand - BEST Sunday Roast EVER!

Today my gorgeous and totally silly husband Liam turns 30. 

Hubby and I at the weekend: beginning the celebrations in style! 

Is it too twee that we had colour coordinating outfits? 

On Sunday, we began our week of celebrations: I took hubby for the ultimate Sunday roast at Simpson's in the Strand, London (part of The Savoy Hotel). 

What is Simpson's in the Strand?

For a true taste of all that’s best in British cuisine, there’s no finer dining establishment than Simpson's-In-The Strand.

Only the finest seasonal ingredients are used by Master Cook Gerry Rae, in a Bill of Fare that offers a wide range of classical dishes, including classics such as potted shrimps, roast saddle of lamb and steak and kidney pie. The restaurant’s speciality aged Scottish beef and other roasts are carved at guests’ tables – from antique silver-domed trolley, by Simpson's Master Carvers in a perfect example of restaurant theatre. Simpson's also serves the Great British Breakfast on weekdays, with the 'Ten Deadly Sins' for hearty appetites.

Guests can also enjoy classic cocktails in Knight’s Bar, an art deco cocktail lounge located on the first floor. It is the perfect place to enjoy either a pre-dinner cocktail or after-dinner aperitif. 

(The Savoy Hotel, website)

I first heard about Simpson's about 10 months ago when I was watching 'The Hairy Bikers: Best of British' on TV with my sister: the episode was all about beef (our favourite meat). In this particular episode Si & Dave visit Simpson's and eat roast beef carved in front of them at the table in silver domed trolleys. I thought to myself 'Liam would LOVE this' and then it occurred to me, I should take him for his birthday! So I made the reservation.
Simpson's History
Simpson's-in-the-Strand is one of London's most historic landmark restaurants and has been offering classic British dishes to its delighted patrons for over 170 years.
Originally opened in 1828 as a chess club and coffee house - The Grand Cigar Divan - Simpson's soon became known as the "home of chess", attracting such chess luminaries as Howard Staunton the first English world chess champion through its doors. It was to avoid disturbing the chess games in progress that the idea of placing large joints of meat on silver-domed trolleys and wheeling them to guests' tables first came into being, a practice Simpson's still continues today. One of the earliest Master Cooks insisted that everything in the restaurant be British and the Simpson's of today remains a proud exponent of the best of British food. Famous guests include Vincent Van Gogh, Charles Dickens, Sherlock Holmes, George Bernard Shaw, Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone.
(Simpson's in the Strand website)
I can't tell you how excited we were to be eating in the same restaurant as Charles Dickens and Vincent Van Gogh: knowing that Arthur Conan Doyle had written about Sherlock Holmes dining in Simpson's made this place extra cool for us as we are both big Sherlock fans!

Then, to our surprise, a few weeks ago while watching my favourite programme Downton Abbey, we saw Lady Mary Crawley visit Simpson's for lunch! How excited I was! We paused the TV and saw the waiters carving the meat at the table in the silver domed trolleys, just as they do today - amazing. 

Ten months of waiting flew past and suddenly our reservation was upon us - we were so excited! We love a foodie experience and was really interested to see just how good a roast dinner could be. We've eaten a lot of roast dinners in our 28 and 30 years…could it really get any better? 

The answer….YES…it can get SO MUCH BETTER. 


The super stunning entrance at Simpson's in the Strand

The Grand Divan dining room: simply stunning! 

Seated at our table listening to the pianist in the corner playing gentle Christmas carols - heaven!

The decor at Simpson's in simply stunning - I imagine it hasn't altered in years, the place just reeks of history, class and sophistication. Mustard ceilings with the most stunning detail: this place was truly made for me! 

We both decided to go straight in for the main course (their speciality) of roast rib of beef with all the trimmings - we also added two sides to share of Honeyed Parsnips and Cauliflower Cheese with Bacon. 

The rib of beef being carved and served at our tables. There was one chef for carving the meat, and another popping the Yorkshire pudding on our plates, serving the gravy and adding fresh horseradish sauce (if requested). 

Roast Rib of beef served with Yorkshire pudding and gravy 

I genuinely can't put into words how INCREDIBLE this roast beef was. I've had some pretty good beef in my time, but this was truly the nicest roast beef I have ever eaten. Aside from the fact alone that I was given a WHOLE PLATES WORTH of the delicious stuff (greedy me just LOVED this), it was cooked to absolute perfection (you can choose how well done you'd like your meat if the rare beef puts you off, but seriously, if you've never tried it rare here is the place to be brave, you will never ever go back to well done meat if you try this). The beef was like butter, it barely needed cutting and it melted in your mouth, juicy, succulent and FULL of flavour. The gravy was beautiful, as was the light as air giant Yorkie: absolute perfection. 

The roast beef comes with Yorkshire pudding, gravy, savoy cabbage and roast potatoes. 

I just loved the mini copper pans that the savoy cabbage was served in, and the crispy roast potatoes were to die for. The perfect roast potato for me must have a super crispy outer and a soft and tender middle - Simpson's definitely know how to roast their spuds! 

Side dishes of honeyed parsnips and cauliflower cheese with bacon - pimping up our roast to another level! 

Because we are greedy, and because we were celebrating - we ordered two extra side dishes to share (we didn't have starters so that's not too naughty, is it?) A bowl of hot sticky honeyed parsnips which were so delicate and delicious: slightly sweet, and cooked until soft and tender, these parsnips were truly a delight. Usually, parsnips served in restaurants and carverys are so overcooked and so caramelised that they can be borderline bitter - but these were sweet and perfect. The cauliflower cheese was creamy but not overpowering, the cauliflower still had a little bite, and the crunchy bacon pieces elevated this little dish of delight to simply another level. The perfect accompaniments to the best beef on earth. 

T'ah d'ah - have you ever seen a roast so beautiful?

Of course, we gobbled up every last bit, and washed it all down with a delicious glass of their house Merlot each. 

We followed the delicious main course with one of their stick-to-your-ribs classic British puddings each: I opted for Spotted Dick with Vanilla Custard, and hubby opted for Treacle Sponge with Vanilla Custard. PARADISE IN A BOWL. 

Spotted Dick with the creamiest Vanilla Custard

Hubby's pud: Treacle sponge with Vanilla Custard

Both puddings were the perfect end to the perfect meal. My spotted dick was remarkably light despite the gorgeous suet dough, and was spiced to perfection. The vanilla custard was thick, creamy, oozy and rich with vanilla beans. A bowl of custard alone would have been pretty awesome, but add in the pud and it was a true delight. Hubby's treacle sponge was rich and cloying (in a good way) - spoonfuls of treacle mixed with creamy custard - is there actually anything better?

Portion sizes were great - generous without being silly, and left us nicely full and content. 

Just as hubby took his last mouthful of pudding he said to me 'oooh I could totally eat that again, it was amazing!' … then I prompted him to look over his shoulder where our lovely waitress was bringing him over his delicious pudding: round two! We always joke that we could eat a second portion of pudding when it is particularly good: as it was hubby's birthday treat I thought he deserved second helpings! 

Hubby's second helping of pudding! 

One happy birthday boy!

We genuinely could not fault our meal at Simpson's: it was the best roast dinner we've ever eaten by a mile. The surroundings were simply stunning, the heritage and history of the place seeps out of the walls. We were totally spoilt by the waiting staff, and all in all in totally blew our minds. 

In terms of pricing, we think this restaurant is very reasonable considering how incredible it is. It is of course a treat venue, we wouldn't be able to afford to eat here every Sunday (I SO wish we could!)

Our meal came to £120 (including service charge) this included: two roast rib of beef dinners, two side dishes, two glasses of merlot, a large bottle of still mineral water and two puddings (and a free third pudding!) At £60 a head, I think this meal was really very good value. I would eat there again in a flash, in fact, we are desperate to go back for breakfast and try their '10 Deadly Sins' fried breakfast for just £14.50 per person (served Monday to Friday). We will definitely book that up soon! 

We finished our lovely celebration day together by having a lovely walk around London, taking in the sights and burning off some of our hearty lunch. 

St James' Park in all its glory - such a beautiful part of London. 

We couldn't go to London and not say hello to Queenie: Liam and I outside Buck House. 

What a truly perfect way to celebrate something so special with my gorgeous man! 

We have lots of other treats planned in this week of celebrations: we have already delighted in hubby's customary birthday fry up

Hubby's Birthday Fry Up: a tradition! 

Tonight, we are heading out to try a Thai restaurant in Bedford called 'Rice' which has had some incredible reviews, so we're really excited about that. Then we plan to hit our favourite cocktail bar in town called The Auction Room for some Amaretto sour cocktails (basically tastes like cake in a glass, yum!)

On Friday night I'm cooking Liam his favourite ever dinner: homemade chicken kievs, chips and beans, followed by banana tarte tatin. And then on Saturday we are heading out to lunch with Liam's mum, stepdad, sister and sister in law to celebrate with them. They are all heading back to our house after lunch to indulge in a piece of Liam's pre-requested birthday cake: Banoffee Marshmallow cake! I will be posting how I get on with the cake over the weekend, so watch this space! 

By the way, can you tell we are food mad? Ha! All of hubby's celebrations are based around food…good man! :-)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LIAM, I love you so much! 

Mrs B 

xxx

Disclaimer: This review has not been sponsored or paid for in any sense. I have written about Simpson's because we had a truly amazing time and I want you all to visit. Simpson's had no idea I would be writing about them, and the treatment we received at the restaurant was clearly an example of their impeccable service for everyone. 






Tuesday, 18 November 2014

No More Wires with the GTech Air Ram K9 & Multi Vacuum Cleaners *REVIEW*

Last month I was sent a GTech Air Ram K9 cordless vacuum cleaner, and GTech Multi handheld vacuum cleaner to review. 



Those of you who have followed my blog since the start will know that I have a serious back condition which has resulted in me having three slipped discs in my lower back. This has meant having to wade through a year and a half of trying different medications, physiotherapy, acupuncture, and even an epidural to help deal with the pain. It has also meant having to change my lifestyle to ensure I only do things I can physically manage - I can no longer do any high impact exercise, I can't lift anything remotely heavy, and I haven't been able to use our heavy vacuum cleaner since my back trouble started as it always aggravates my back. 

At first, the not hoovering didn't bother me at all - I hated using the vacuum cleaner anyway, it was boring and it hurt. Hubby took over that job and I didn't think any more about it. But, as the weeks passed I realised how much I missed being able to just 'put the hoover round' whenever I felt the house needed a clear up. When I was in charge of hoovering it got done at least once a week, and I was happy that my house looked clean and tidy. However, after hubby took over the role of Chief Vacuum Operator it didn't get done nearly as often as I wanted - I hated having to ask him to vacuum, I sounded like a bore and didn't want to seem like a really nagging wife but it wasn't getting done, and the house was suffering. I felt frustrated, I even had a go at hoovering again on the sly, but it hurt like hell and I regretted it instantly. 

Then I saw an advert on the TV for the GTech Air Ram vacuum cleaners, and I thought to myself - is this too good to be true? I wondered whether they would be suitable for me to use, and whether they would be the answer to our vacuum debacle. When I was offered the chance to give them a go, I couldn't believe my luck. I opened the boxes, crossed my fingers, and hoped for the best...

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

GTECH AIR RAM K9 & GTECH MULTI

REVIEW

The GTech Air Ram K9 cordless vacuum cleaner

The GTech Air Ram K9

GTech Air Ram K9


The GTech Air Ram K9 is GTech's newest model of the Air Ram cordless vacuum cleaner. The machine is so small and compact that it looks like a powered carpet sweeper rather than an actual vacuum cleaner! GTech pride themselves on having created a product that rivals any mains powered vacuum in terms of performance, but without the cords, bags and faff!


This new generation machine is now strengthened by zinc alloy components and so is more resistant to the wear and tear caused by the toughest cleaning jobs. AirRam K9 features upgraded brush bars which help to reduce the build up of stubborn pet hair, and filter fresheners which scent the room while you vacuum. 

This machine is so easy to maintain - in order to empty out the dust and debris after hoovering you simply pull off the dirt chamber in one swift motion, take off the lid, and empty the collected dust bales straight into the dustin. 

The dirt chamber removed, ready for emptying...

The lid off, revealing the dusty filter (top) and the two dust bales (bottom) ready for the bin! 

The GTech Air Ram K9 on charge - simply leave it plugged into the mains for 4 hours and you'll receive enough charge to vacuum your whole house twice. 

This machine definitely stacks up against any corded vacuum I've ever used in terms of its strength of suction. It has all the functionality of a standard hoover, but is infinitely easier to use. 

GTech Multi


Because the Air Ram K9 is just for upright vacuum cleaning, GTech have developed a small and very light handheld cordless vacuum called the GTech Multi - this clever piece of kit can do all the little things that the K9 can't, and is so small and light that you'll be able to do so much of your general day to day cleaning using this machine alone. 

The Multi comes with a small brush attached for vacuuming in hard to reach nooks and crannies, a 36cm extension tube for cleaning skirting boards without bending and cobwebs without climbing. 
The GTech Multi with its 36cm extension tube - making it easy to get into the nooks and crannies…clean the skirting boards or suck up all your cobwebs. Genius. 

The Multi also comes with a stairs/upholstery tool making cleaning around your home an absolute breeze! Also, when you press the power button on the Multi it shines a bright LED light onto the surface you are cleaning, making it easy to see what you're doing - clever stuff. 

Cleaning the stairs is a breeze with the GTech Multi!

video
I never thought I'd actually enjoy hoovering, but with the GTech products I actually do! 

We have been using both products in our home for the past month, and we absolutely love them! In fact we haven't had our old hoover (a Henry) out of the cupboard since the GTech's arrived - there really isn't much chance I'd ever go back to using a corded vacuum cleaner ever again now that I've had the pleasure of using these fab machines. 

What do I think makes the GTech Air Ram K9 & Multi so special?

  • Both vacuum cleaners were remarkably straight forward to set up - I had both items out of their packaging, put together and working within 15 minutes of the parcel arriving! 
  • GTech vacuum cleaners have cordless technology. The lithium batteries are rechargeable, plugging into the mains with a small charger, and then are unplugged for use once the battery is charged. This means you can hoover freely throughout your home without tripping over wires, plugging and unplugging in each room etc. 
  • The GTech Air Ram K9 & Multi take around 4 hours each to fully charge, each charge will give you over 40 minutes of use - enough time to hoover all the carpets in your home twice. 
  • GTech hoovers are bagless. You do not have to purchase special dust bags, all the dirt and dust is collected up into either tiny bales (GTech Air Ram / K9) , or a dirt chamber (Multi) - both of which are just emptied straight into the dustbin.
  • The filters can be washed by hand, and left to dry over night meaning that you don't have to pay to replace filters at any point. The K9 filters now contain lavender scented inserts, which can be replaced - so now you can freshen your rooms while you clean (you can currently send off to get a packet of scented inserts free when you purchase a K9 vacuum)
  • The GTech Air Ram K9 weighs just 3.8kg meaning it feels light to push around the house compared to standard vacuum cleaners - this means people with back problems like myself won't find this vacuum cleaner a struggle.
  • The GTech Multi weighs just 1.6 kg making it easy to hold for use on stairs, skirting boards and cobwebs. 
  • The GTech Air Ram K9 and the Multi both have just one button - the power button. Both are so simple and uncomplicated to use. 
  • The K9 vacuum cleaner is suitable for all floor surfaces (carpet, wood floor, tiles, vinyl) and doesn't need to change settings to go between different surfaces - all you need is an on/off switch. 
  • Both vacuum cleaners have a clear green/red light bar system to tell you how much charge your machines have, and when they are ready for a recharge. 
Prices

GTech Air Ram K9 is priced at £249

GTech Multi priced at £149 

OR 

For a special offer price of £299 you can buy the GTech Air Ram K9 & GTech Multi together - creating GTech's ultimate cordless cleaning system.

For me, these machines are a total revelation, and in my eyes completely worth the money. Vacuum cleaning my home is now finally do-able for me despite my back problems, and running around all day after a very messy toddler has been made infinitely easier by having them in my life. 

What I love best is how on hand both products are - I don't store either of them away in the back of a cupboard like I had to with my old vacuum cleaner. Instead, the Multi lives in the study on the bookcase, ready to pick up at any moment my toddler decides to throw his breakfast at me, or crumble a biscuit around the house. Similarly, the Air Ram K9 is so small and unassuming that it usually lives next to the desk in the study, or by the patio doors in our dining room - the fact that I can just pick it up and go means that I now sometimes vacuum my home multiple times in a day - its never looked so tidy!

Before using the K9 and Multi, vacuuming was an event in our house - we planned when to do it, dreaded it, and always felt obliged to do the whole house from top to bottom if we'd bothered to retrieve it from the back of the broom cupboard and untangle the wire etc. Now, with the K9 and Multi we do lots of small maintenance vacuuming sessions of a few minutes here and there, and it no longer feels like a chore. In fact - hubby has miraculously started hoovering far more often that he ever did before (what is it they say about boys and their toys?)

A big thanks to GTech for gifting us these great products, you have truly changed our day to day lives and made keeping the house clean and tidy SO much easier. From the bottom of my tired-mum-of-a-toddler heart, I thank you - and implore any worn our parents out there to get yourselves these awesome bits of kit, you won't regret it. 

Mrs B 

xxx

You can also follow GTech on their social media accounts:
Facebook 
Twitter @_Gtech
You Tube
Google Plus

Disclaimer: I was sent the GTech Air Ram K9 and GTech Multi for the purpose of this review. All words, opinions and images are my own. 

Family Fever

Monday, 17 November 2014

Sweet Treats from Bonne Maman *REVIEW*

I have the sweetest tooth. Nothing new there then! Obviously, most of the time I enjoy the baking process almost as much as the eating, and I especially love sharing my bakes with friends and family. But sometimes when life gets seriously hectic, or surprise visitors show up, its always handy to have a tasty sweet treat in your store cupboard that you can bring out when an emergency tea party needs to be thrown together.

On the whole I don't eat shop bought cakes and biscuits - when hubby and I embarked on our weight loss, we both pledged that we would no longer 'waste' calories on food stuffs which we didn't really enjoy that much - no more eating for the sake of it. On the whole, shop bought cakes and biscuits are a bit ropey, especially in comparison to a home baked treat - so we decided that we would just enjoy the homemade stuff every now and then, rather than the processed items more frequently.

The only shop bought cake item we agreed that we would still be likely to buy and eat 'off the shelf' was a Bakewell tart (The Mr Kipling variety) - they are our guilty pleasures, and for us, would never seem like a 'waste' of calories. 

Are there any other shop bought cake varieties out there that would stack up against a homemade treat, I wondered? 

Bonne Maman *REVIEW*





Then, a few weeks ago I was asked if I'd like to review some Bonne Maman cakes and biscuits. I decided it would be interesting (considering my new stance on shop-bought patisserie) to see what we made of them.

I had heard of and tasted some Bonne Maman products before such as their jams and marmalades, I had also tasted one of their desserts (Baba au Rhum) at a friends house for a dinner party last year, and was very impressed at the taste and quality of the products. 

My previous experience with Bonne Maman had left me excited by the prospect of trying more of their range, and I wondered whether these shop bought treats would be good enough to make it onto my 'will buy/eat' list for shop-bought confection. Luckily, upon trying this new selection of their famous Madeleines and Gallettes, we weren't disappointed.


An exciting delivery in The Bishop household

Bonne Maman are an authentic French company who pride themselves on their traditional French recipes, methods and ingredients. Their dedication to the quality of their products shines through, and upon tasting the selection of goodies sent our way it really is hard to find fault with what they have to offer. 

Aside from the fantastic flavour and texture of their products, for me, the things I were most impressed by was a) how they are packaged and b) the calorie content. 

Coming from someone who has recently lost 6 stone through calorie counting, it is vital for me to truly understand what I'm eating by having the nutritional information for that product. Bonne Maman print the nutritional information onto everything they sell, and make it clear what the calorie content is per each individual item/portion, instead of per 100g as you find on so many packets of items, which makes it difficult to calculate. Best of all, for me, each of their cakes and biscuits is packaged individually - meaning you can open a bag of Madeleines or box of galettes without feeling obliged to eat the whole lot. Nothing is going to go stale or ruin, as each item is wrapped in plastic, and so preserved. 

Having been a greedy over eater for so many years of my life, the novelty of opening a packet of biscuits and just having one or two is a relatively new one for me, but with the Bonne Maman galettes (butter biscuits) each box contains five packets of two pre-wrapped biscuits, making moderation an effortless thing, and meaning that nothing needs to go to waste. 

What Have We Tried?

We were sent a packet of plain Traditional Madeleines, a packet of Chocolate Madeleines, a box each of Traditional Butter Galettes, Rich Chocolate Galettes, Lemon/Poppyseed Galettes, Caramel & Sea Salt Galettes, Lemon Tartlets and finally, Chocolate Caramel Tartlets. 

What a selection! We were sent these items a month ago, and I'm pleased to say we've tried everything, shared some with friends and family, and still have some left! We will have no trouble using up the goodies we have remaining in the lead up to Christmas, the practical packaging makes these sweet treats the perfect store cupboard ingredient - oh, I also think they are fabulous for lunch-box treats, their size and packaging means they are small enough to not be too horrendously calorific, but still delicious, and would travel well in their pre-wrapped form. 

Madeleines


Traditional Madeleine

All wrapped up

These scallop shell shaped traditional little sponge cakes are simply delicious! The perfect accompaniment to an afternoon mug of tea, these moist and rich sponges taste truly scrumptious. Close to a Madeira sponge in texture and flavour, these light, yet sticky little handfuls have become a firm favourite in our house. 

Each Traditional Madeleine is 113 calories, and each Milk Chocolate Madeleine is 137 calories.

We also tried the chocolate dipped Madeleines, which are equally delicious (although, I have to say, I have a soft spot for the traditional ones, they are to me, perfect). 

Bonne Maman's Madeleines are available to buy for £1.99 per bag of seven individually wrapped cakes from Sainsburys, Tesco, Waitrose, Ocado, Nisa and Booths. 

As an alternative to an afternoon treat, these Madeleines would be fantastic to bake with - using them in place of sponge fingers in a trifle or tiramisu would be incredible, or, if you fancied something a little more extravagant for dessert this Christmas you could try famous French chef Eric Lanlard's recipe for Winter Fruits and Madeleine Charlotte Cake...


Galettes

Galettes are traditional French biscuits that bring a little sophistication to your mid-morning coffee or afternoon tea. Packaged in portions of two biscuits these large thin biscuits are little slices of buttery heaven. They are the richest and most decadent tasting biscuits, and so two at a time really is enough. 

Bonne Maman produce their galettes in a fabulous variety of flavours - my favourites were the lemon/poppyseed which are so fresh despite their intense butteriness. We also adored the Caramel Sea Salt flavour (the first box to be emptied completely) whose intensely sweet buttery caramel flavour is perfectly balanced with a sea salty final note - these biscuits taste like such an indulgent treat, but at around 145 calories per two biscuits, they really aren't remotely as bad for you as they taste. 


Our selection of galettes...

Lemon/Poppyseed buttery biscuit heaven

Chocolate galettes in all their glory

The Bonne Maman galettes are available to buy for £1.49 per box of 10 biscuits (5 pre wrapped packets of 2) from Sainsburys, Waitrose, Co Op, Nisa and Ocado. 

Tartlets

The final product we tried in the Bonne Maman range were their newest additions …deliciously authentic tartlets made from all-natural ingredients. These Petit butter pastry Tartlets are perfect for celebrations, or just an indulgent afternoon treat - they are small, and again pre-wrapped, making them a great lunch box or picnic treat. 

They come in three flavour varieties - Chocolate Caramel, Lemon, and Raspberry. Closer to biscuits than tartlets because of their size and 'set' chewy middles, I enjoyed these little bites of yumminess with a cup of tea as a late afternoon pick me up, as well as serving them to friends with lunch, or on an afternoon tea platter. 

Each Chocolate Caramel Tartlet is 74 calories, and each Lemon Tartlet is 61 calories. 


Wrapped Chocolate Caramel tartlet 

Delicious bite sized tartlet

Bonne Maman tartlets are available for £2.15 per box of 9 individually wrapped tartlets at Ocado. 

A Final Note… 

Overall, I am really delighted with the range of products we've tested from Bonne Maman, so much so that I would definitely pick them up for my store cupboard when I next see them in the supermarket. 

For me, their quality means I would happily and confidently serve them to guests, and they most definitely make it onto our 'will buy/eat' shop bought cake list! These traditional products are so authentic you could easily be mistaken into thinking they were homemade and fresh from the oven. 

I think that little Bert is perhaps one of Bonne Marman's cutest fans ;0) He's enjoyed quite a few tasty treats courtesy of this delivery - he likes nothing better than getting into a super melty-chocolatey mess with a chocolate dipped Madeleine or tartlet…
Ramming in a chocolate tartlet - is that nice Bert? 
I think that face means "Yes Mum, they're delicious!" 

This Christmas, make your life easier, and serve your guests some delicious treats with no work at all. During this busy festive period we can't always have a batch of just warm from the oven mince pies at the ready - so for those moments when you have no time, or are caught off guard, having Bonne Maman treats in your store cupboard will mean you'll never be caught short again! 

Why not head over to the Bonne Maman website to check out their other amazing products, learn about their ingredients or discover some brilliant recipe ideas. 
Afternoon Tea - Bonne Maman style! 

Disclaimer: We were sent a selection of Bonne Maman cakes and biscuits for the purpose of this review. All opinions, words and pictures are my own, excluding the Bonne Maman logo. 
Family Fever

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Mr Bishop & The Haynes Men's Pie Manual *REVIEW*

Hi all, Mr Bishop here! Bit of a change from normal today. Mrs Bishop was recently asked to review a copy of a new cookbook, the Haynes Men’s Pie Manual by Andrew Webb . As the book is aimed primarily at men, we thought it would be a good idea for me to give it a road test instead and write a guest post review. So for one day only, get your aprons on and wipe your floury hands on the back of your jeans, as its Mr Bishop’s Attempted Bakes and Banter time!

The Haynes Men's Pie Manual is available from Haynes priced £21.99.

The first thing to say about the book is that it’s in the style of a Haynes car manual, so with that and the writing inside, it’s definitely aimed at men who might not be the best of cooks.

Everything is written very simply and is easy to follow in an easy-to-understand informal style, without being patronising. It aims to give you lots of extra information on cooking processes rather than just give instructions like ‘Crimp’ or ‘baste’ or ‘add a pinch of’ or something else equally familiar but vague. So it’s not just a book of recipes, there is a quite detailed section at the front of the book (‘Tools of the Trade’) which takes you through several cooking skills that you wouldn’t normally find in a cookbook. Basic info on lots of kitchen areas that are often assumed knowledge, such as ‘Stove top things’, ‘Correct oven and hob use’, ‘ Pastry amounts for specific tin sizes’, ‘Pie funnels’ and loads more helpful stuff.

There is also a huge section on making your own pastry if you don’t want to buy it ready-made, with tips on rolling, resting, blind baking, flour types, crimping and loads of others. There are recipes for 7 different types of pastry you can use. Basically everything you wanted to know about pastry that isn’t in a normal cookbook.

The book is a hardback, the pages are full colour with big pictures of the food, and quite thick paper, so it can take a bit of battering with floury/greasy/eggy hands in the kitchen and hold up well.


Onto the recipes! There are loads of sections and a huge amount of recipes in here, so loads to choose from. There are some really simple ones for beginners, up to some quite impressive more complicated recipes for veteran chefs. Here are the sections and a few select recipes from each I like the sound of, but there are tons in each. Every section has a few pages at the start, giving some tips on how to cook meat/put together the pies and other stuff it would be handy to know etc

Tools of the Trade

Making Pastry

Stocks and Sauces

Meat Pies - Steak and Kidney Pudding, Chilli Beef Pie, Lamb Bomb, Oxtail and Beef Cheek Pie, Espresso Cup Pie, Meatball Pie

Chicken and Game Pies – Chicken and Mushroom Pie, Chicken and Stuffing Ball Open Pie, Chicken in a Frying Pan Pie, Venison Pot Pie

Fish Pies – Smoked Fish Pie with Chedder Mash Topping, Prawn Cocktail Pies

Potato Topped Pies and Cobblers – Shepherd’s Pie, Individual Gnocchi Topped Fish Pie, Beef and Guinness Cobbler

Veggie Pies – Magical Mushroom Pie, Bubble and Squeak Pie, Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese Pie

Things That Are Almost Pies – Cornish Pasty, Beef Wellington, Bedfordshire Clanger (a local classic to us Bishops)

Sweet Pies – Pecan Pie, Cherry Pie, Pear and Chocolate Chip Pie

Accompaniments – Making Proper Gravy, Ketchups and Condiments, Baked Beans, Beer

And loads more in every section. That’s enough of a few favourites to keep me going for a while!

Right, obviously no cookbook review would be complete without making a few dishes from it. So after getting flour all over my jeans, I strapped one of Lucy’s aprons on and was ready to cook. For my main course, I decided on...

Fry Up Pie

This one appealed to me as it’s basically a fry up in a pie, so I had to give it a go. Not your classic pie recipe, but that’s what I love about this book! It’s a pie everyone wants but never knew it until they saw it in a book. There is a bit of info on the classic fry up at the start of the recipe, and why which ingredients are included in the pie, so after reading through that and getting all my bits together, I started the baking. The full recipe can be found in the book, so I’ll just take you through the basic process and show you how I did. *cue drooling*

I started off by frying each of the main ingredients one after another in the same pan (preserving flavour). So we have pork sausage, bacon and black pudding (eg the Holy Trinity of breakfast).


The recipe calls for 2 smaller pie dishes but it does state you can make 1 big one, and being a fan of massive pies, I went for a big one. So I put the ingredients in my trusty pie dish, made 2 indents in the filling, and cracked an egg into each, over the top of the sausage/bacon/black pudding mega-mix.




Next I rolled out my shortcrust pastry using a big wooden rolling pin (the bigger the better, doubles up as a sword when kitchen play-fighting). I put the pastry over the filling, crimped my edges, egg-washed the top and I was ready to bung it in the oven and bake!


And here we go, Fry Up Pie!



I served it with baked beans, fried mushrooms and some hash browns. It was delicious! I was worried it might be a bit dry without any pie-gravy but the egg had filled in all the gaps and baked it all together and kept it moist, a little like a quiche filling really. The pastry top was great as well. It really did taste like a fry up in a pie, which makes it more acceptable to have for dinner rather than breakfast. Brilliant stuff!



One thing to note, it doesn’t look like the most appetising pie filling ever, but who cares when it tastes so good! I know Mrs Bishop normally includes the calories for each dish, but I haven’t here as a Fry Up Pie is so obviously a treat dish and I didn't want the total to put me off.


For dessert I tried out something from the Sweet section...

Mars Bar En Croûte

The original recipe called for a Snickers bar, but I'm not a huge fan of nuts and chocolate together (weird, I know!) so I opted for a Mars bar considering they are basically the same, minus the nuts. I wanted to do something simple seeing as I had already made a normal pie that evening already.

Again the full recipe and details on the dish are in the book. Here are the Mars Bars ready to go.


I measured and rolled the right amount of pastry and wrapped the bars specifically to keep them encased (no leaking of molten Mars wanted!). A quick chill in the fridge (whilst we ate the Fry Up Pie) and then an egg-wash and it’s in the oven. 


And here we go!



This was AWESOME. Imagine a molten chocolate caramel Mars Bar encased in pastry. Go on. It looks this good and tastes better. You know you want it.


It would be great as a dessert with added ice cream. You could do them in advance and leave them to chill all day in the fridge ready to pop in the oven when you needed them, if like me you were in a rush making other pies and didn't want to be doing pastry prep in the evening. It would even be good as a warm afternoon snack if you had some friends round and were feeling decadent.

Overall I was really impressed with this book. It’s aimed at men who probably aren’t experienced cooks, but it’s not patronising at all. I’d say women could get a lot from it as well. It has absolutely loads of information on all aspects of working in the kitchen, so when it tells you to do something, it tells you how to do it as well. There are a huge amount of recipes, classic pies as well as some modern interpretations. I will definitely be using it again. I actually thought it was such a good book that I went out and brought another copy of it to give away as a Christmas present to a male family member who also loves to cook, but, like me, finds most recipe books frustrating! I hope he'll be pleased with this one. 

This book really would make the perfect Christmas gift for any males in the family who'd like a helping hand in the kitchen. 

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the Mr Bishop’s Attempted Bakes and Banter guest post today, I’m off to finish my Mars En Croûte with a coffee!

Mr Bishop 


Disclaimer: We were sent one copy of the Haynes Men's Pie Manual for the purpose of this review. All words, opinions and photos are our own.