Monday, 27 June 2016

The Cinnamon Club, Westminster

In celebration of the arrival of our baby girl, last night hubby and I headed into the Big Smoke to enjoy some Indian fine dining at The Cinnamon Club in Westminster. We were invited along by Bookatable.com to try out the restaurant's Lazy Sunday 3 course menu, which comes with pre-starters and a glass of champagne as standard, all for £40 per person.

We had heard only good things about this restaurant, which, incidentally was named Bookatable's 'Best Indian Restaurant in London, 2016'. So we had high expectations! 

The booking process through the Bookatable website was faultless - the website provides ample information about the venue, along with pictures, reviews and sample menus to look at, as well as a link to the restaurant's official website. The deal is clearly explained for the customer, and it took a matter of minutes to search for available dates/times for us to visit. After booking I received a confirmation email instantly, as well as a reminder email shortly before our visit and our table was ready and waiting for us on arrival, and I hadn't even had to pick up a phone! Result. 

It was an amazing treat to head out on a date night with Liam minus the kids - the last few months have been a bit of a blur, with the slog of being heavily pregnant, followed by Connie's super speedy/crazy birth (you can read her birth story here) and then the foggy haze that is the first two weeks with a newborn - we've sort of been in auto-pilot mode: making bottles, changing bums, washing clothes, not sleeping...so it felt really great to get dressed up, straighten my hair, and head out without a changing bag and buggy in tow. 

The Cinnamon Club, Westminster.
The Cinnamon Club, Westminster.

Set in the historic Grade II listed former Westminster Library, The Cinnamon Club is an institution in the world of Indian fine dining. The original modern Indian restaurant in London, The Cinnamon Club has a long history of serving innovative and creative Indian cuisine in a magnificently majestic setting.

Re-opening in 2015 following a major refurbishment, Executive Chef Vivek Singh and Head Chef Rakesh Ravindran Nair have developed a stunning new menu that combines The Cinnamon Club’s signatures with new dishes and celebratory platters.


We were so excited to try the special Sunday menu!
Library at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
The restaurant decor is perfect for a bookworm like me. 

The decor inside the restaurant is traditional meets modern with a rather large nod to the building's library roots: the walls are lined with hundreds of beautiful old books...I genuinely felt like I was deep within the Beast's library (I'm a HUGE Beauty & The Beast fan!) The interior really did take my breath away. 

Library restaurant at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
The Library within the main restaurant at The Cinnamon Club

Bookshelf of old books at Cinnamon Club, Westminster
Books, books, books! 

The deal we booked with Bookatable meant we had to order from the Lazy Sunday menu, and we were so pleasantly surprised by the array of choices on this menu: there is absolutely something for everyone with five starter options, six different main courses, and four desserts to choose from.

pre-starters at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
Pre-starter at The Cinnamon Club

We firstly enjoyed a selection of pre-starters: delectable Indian finger-food to whet our appetites and get us fired up for the meal to come. Each morsel on this plate was not only beautiful to look at, but a marvellous eat - considered, beautifully balanced between spicy and sweet, with a creaminess and tang from yoghurt, a zingy freshness of herbs and some wonderful textures made this a beautiful eat and the perfect way to start the meal. 

Duck breast starter at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
My Starter: Seared Gressingham duck breast, spiced leg and mappas roll, sesame peanut crumble.

My starter didn't disappoint - the duck was perfectly pink (what a treat to be able to eat rare meat again, after 9 months of a cautionary pregnancy diet!) with a delicious nut crumble to add bite and texture. The duck was served over a sweet and creamy coconut flavoured sauce which had Thai influence, all served with a side of beautifully cooked and subtley spiced greens. The spiced leg mappas roll was really quite something - soft, juicy leg meat - spiced to perfection with a decadent crispy outer shell - I could have eaten a plate of them alone! 

Romney Marsh Lamb Main at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
My main course: Roast saddle of Romney Marsh lamb, corn sauce, pickled root vegetables, masala cashew nut. 

I definitely made a sound choice with my main course - stunning Romney Marsh lamb (my first time eating this wonderful lamb, but definitely not my last!) served with a corn sauce reminiscent of a chowder but with incredible Indian spicing - the crunch of the cashew nut worked so well with the silky sauce, and I loved the addition of the pickled vegetables which added sourness to the dish while you got a warmth/heat from the garlicky spinach, and some delicately flavoured rice to bring the whole meal together. I fear I may of devoured this whole dish without looking up or making conversation with Liam! Ha! Romance is dead. 

Almond and Raspberry Pudding dessert at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
My dessert: Spiced almond and raspberry pudding with strawberry ice cream. 

The finale of my meal was this hearty spiced almond and raspberry pudding served with strawberry ice cream - all the flavours of a delicious Bakewell pudding/tart with added spice! The cake itself was moist and sticky, not too heavy but certainly substantial enough to live up to its title of a pudding rather than a sponge. The strawberry ice cream was beautifully creamy and tasted of ACTUAL strawberries, unlike the fake strawberry-syrup flavouring of your standard strawberry ice cream. There was added crunch from a stunningly delicate leaf-shaped sugar tuile biscuit, and some crunchy coconut pieces on top of the pudding which ensured the dish echoed Indian vibes to the end. 

Hubby went for three different dishes to me - and I got a try a mouthful of each, and he a mouthful of each of mine, and they were equally as impressive and delicious as my choices... 

Kedgeree starter at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
Hubby's starter: Kedgeree with smoked haddock and poached egg. 

Liam is notoriously brave with his menu choices when we eat out - he loves to try new things, and this was his first taste of kedgeree. He loved it, especially the delicate spicing and he said he will definitely look out for it again on future menus. 

Minced lamb main at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
Hubby's main course: Curried lamb mince with fried egg, layered paratha and coriander chutney

This dish fascinated me and I couldn't wait to try a mouthful - the flaky paratha was the best I've ever tasted, and dipped into the coriander chutney it was a true triumph. Hubby loved the heat from the spiced lamb mince, and the creaminess that the fried egg bought to the dish - quite an egg-centric meal for a man who only ate his first egg as an adult, due to an egg allergy as a baby! 

Spiced Red Pumpkin and corn cake dessert at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
Hubby's dessert: Spiced red pumpkin and corn cake with popcorn ice cream

Finally, hubby ended on this spiced pumpkin and corn cake, with popcorn ice cream. The cake smelt incredible as the waiter placed our desserts in front of us, and Liam couldn't wait to dive in. The cake was as light as a feather and the balance of spice was absolutely perfect. A subtle flavour of popcorn filled the ice cream, along with a slightly chewy texture from the actual popcorn pieces set within the ice cream itself. Crunch was achieved from a lovely little addition of a biscuit/tuile and it was finished with a fresh vibrant green fruit gel which bought the whole dish together perfectly. A match made in heaven. 

Mr and Mrs Bishop at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
CHEERS! Mr and Mrs B enjoying a glass of bubbly or two at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster. 

We washed our three courses down with some rather magnificent drinks. Firstly, we had our complimentary glass of champagne which came as part of the Bookatable deal - it  was such a lovely rare treat to enjoy a glass of bubbly in peace with Liam. Secondly, we opted for a Cinnamon Bellini: it was a warm and decadent drink - the perfect thing to accompany my spicy lamb main course. Finally, we chose a sweet, palate cleansing Sesame Vanilla Lassi drink to finish the meal off, we wanted to stay true to an authentic Indian experience, so we were eager to try The Cinnamon Club's take on this classic Indian yoghurt-based drink: this particular lassi was made with a mixture of sesame seed oil, vanilla, maple syrup and yoghurt, it was a slightly bitter, smoky, smooth drink with a subtlety sweet aftertaste, and was very soothing and cleansing after a spicy meal.

Sesame Vanilla Lassi at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
Sesame Vanilla Lassi to end the meal

I cannot fault the service we received when visiting The Cinnamon Club, it is really no surprise to us that they've won 'Best Indian Restaurant in London, 2016' as they really do seem to have the winning combination of beautiful food, stunning surroundings, impeccable service and good value for money. The staff were friendly, warm, attentive but not overzealous (there is nothing worse than a hovering waiter asking how your meal is every 5 seconds!) 

Now then, I wouldn't be able to truly review a restaurant without talking about the loos - I find you can pretty much get the gist of a place, it's standards, from the rest room. Important factors for me are: cleanliness, decor, quality of cosmetics, hand drying facilities and space. The Cinnamon Club wins on all counts - the rest room was impeccably clean, modern and bright in it's decor, and had no other than L'occitane liquid hand soap (in Verbena, my fave!) on tap. There were fresh towels for hand drying as well as disposable paper towels (of very good quality) and there was plenty of space and mirrors to adjust your outfit, touch up your hair and make up etc without feeling cramped or uncomfortable. 

L'occitane in the rest rooms at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
I do love a good rest room - especially when it's full of L'occitane products! 

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to The Cinnamon Club and would whole-heartedly recommend you try it out - the Bookatable dining offer (of which there are a few from £30 per head) was incredibly good value for money. If you're a fan of Indian cuisine but so far have only sampled a madras from your local curry house then I urge you to try Indian fine dining for comparison - you'll never look at an onion bhagee or keema naan in quite the same way again.

Disclosure: We were gifted the full cost of this meal from Bookatable in return for our honest review. All words, pictures and opinions are my own. 

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Introducing Connie Scarlett Bishop: Birth Story & Breast vs Bottle debacle

One week ago today at 4:39am my beautiful baby girl made her super-speedy entrance into the world. 

Connie Scarlett Bishop 
Born at 4:39am on 9th June 2016
Weighing 8lb 3oz

Meet Connie Scarlett Bishop - our beautiful baby girl!


The Birth

Six days late, she hadn't seemed in much of a hurry to come out and meet us, until last Wednesday in the early hours, when at 1:50am my contractions started. I was determined to labour at home for as long as possible, and obviously had no idea how long or short my labour would be, but in a matter of just two hours my irregular contractions suddenly dramatically intensified and we found ourselves having to make a rather dramatic rush to the hospital. We arrived at 4.15am after the most insane car journey of my life! And she was delivered naturally within just minutes of our arrival! Thank goodness for lack of traffic at that time in the morning, otherwise she'd have undoubtedly been born in the car!! I do love me a bit of drama! 

A few minutes after delivery - Mummy and Connie

Mummy's little squishy! Connie - a few minutes old. 

A few hours after delivery - just waiting to be discharged. 

I managed the labour on 2 paracetamol at home, and then some gas & air for the very short amount of time I was in the delivery suite. The whole birth was a complete shock after the 30+ hour nightmare of Bert's birth (failed epidural, emergency forceps delivery, huge blood loss etc). A week on and it still hasn't really sunk in. 

She came naturally with just a few contractions in the delivery suite, and there were no complications. After delivering the placenta and having some stitches I was able to eat some breakfast, freshen up with a shower and start to get prepared to come home. 

Coming Home

I feel so blessed to have had such a remarkably different birth this time around, and I was genuinely pinching myself when just an hour after arriving at the hospital I was sat with my baby in my arms, sipping a mug of hot sweet tea and eating marmalade toast! We were discharged at 11:30 am that very same morning, and I was at home eating lunch with my lovely family around me on the very day she was born - how incredible!

I was even more thankful that Bert was none the wiser to the whole thing: he slept soundly while I laboured at home, and then blissfully unaware of my dash to the delivery suite - Bert snoozed on while his Grandad held the fort at home. He awoke at 8:15am to his two Nannies who told him his baby sister had arrived, and he'd barely had a chance to swallow his breakfast before Mummy, Daddy and baby Connie arrived home to meet him. 

Welcome home Connie B! 

I have TWO CHILDREN!!!

Sibling love! 

He greeted her with lots of coos and ahh's and isn't she cute? He said 'Hello Darling!' to her completely unprompted, and then went on to ask her 'Connie, do you like Gorillas?' (he is rather fond of animals you see!)... the whole experience was just magical. And I have to say that one week in Bert has been a complete dream with his new baby sister - kissing her, cooing over her, being incredibly gentle, and always seeming so happy to see her. 

Long may it last!! 

Newborn Bert vs. newborn Connie - aren't they alike? 

What a family portrait! Hahaha! #toddlerlife

This first week has gone by in quite a haze - we've been so lucky with a ton of support from family and friends, the most beautiful cards and gifts arriving in streams each day, along with plenty of visitors all desperate for some newborn snuggles. We're obviously knackered, show me parents of a newborn who aren't...but we're loving it and we're so acutely aware of how super-fast these newborn days go and that they'll be over in a flash. We are trying hard to soak up every moment of Liam's 2 week paternity-leave (one week to go!) and we're relishing the slow pace of life at home together until we have to return back to the grind of work, routine and 'normality'. 

Our little squishy! 

Of course, this last week hasn't been all blissful newborn snuggles and milk-drunk smiles...it has been horrendously tough at times too and it would be irresponsible of me not to talk about the tough bits too. 

Breast vs. Bottle 

Aside from the multiple stitches and the pain that ensues, the three slipped discs in my back that were naturally badly affected by another labour...I also had a pretty horrendous time attempting to establish breast feeding. With Bert, I was unable to breast feed him due to him having a very severe tongue tie...we bottle fed him from the off and to be honest, after such a touch and go labour spread over so many hours I was too exhausted to even think about it that much. This time round I had really hoped to be able to try and breast feed, so I was chuffed to bits when just minutes after having my stitches Connie had latched on and proceeded to feed from me for nearly an hour and a half (greedy baby!) Perhaps foolishly I had thought I'd cracked it instantly. 

Two days in I was yet to sleep because she was feeding twice an hour, every hour...my boobs were huge, hard, lumpy, my nipples were cracked and bleeding, and my back was the worst it has been in a long time due to being sat upright in a chair constantly feeding. One of the things I stupidly hadn't considered about breast feeding was how all the responsibility (obviously) would fall to me - no one could help me to feed her, no one could sleep for me, and aside from bringing me plenty of tea, pain killers and giving me some moral support, I was on my own.

Whether it be down to hormones, or my naturally anxious nature, I also found it crazily hard to get my head around not ever knowing how much milk Connie was getting from me, and whether she was getting enough. With Albert we'd been able to keep track of exactly how many ounces of milk he was taking at each feed, and I felt totally reassured by the numbers. This time I just felt panicked and afraid that I wasn't doing enough for her. 

The pain in my boobs and my back got worse, the sleep deprivation ensued and by the evening of day four I was a crying heap on the floor. I knew deep down that I would really struggle to maintain breast feeding long-term with my back in the state it is (I'm in need of spinal fusion surgery), and with a toddler to look after and a business to run I was starting to get panicked about how on earth I could possibly maintain feeding her alone. I read up tons about the possibility of expressing milk and combination feeding, I chatted to lots of friends who have managed to successfully breastfeed, but in the end, I just knew that I couldn't continue. 

Yes, it was a selfish decision - it was to save my own pain, to make my routine and day to day easier, it was because I want shared responsibility of feeding, and I want reassurance from the numbers that bottle feeding brings, I stopped because I was completely and utterly exhausted and needed a break, I wanted to sleep and I could feel my mental health taking a tremendous battering, and that scared me.

I'm a firm believer in happy mum = happy baby, and honestly, those first four days with Connie really were marred by the breast feeding experience. Maybe it would have got easier had I pressed on, but maybe it wouldn't, and I genuinely couldn't take even another feed. I was dreading each and every one and I didn't want that to be the feelings I was experiencing when holding my beautiful daughter in my arms. 

So, the bottles were sterilised, the Perfect Prep machine ordered (they are MAGIC!), the Aptamil powder was opened and I headed to bed for a blissful 6 hour sleep while Liam took over. He was so relieved by my decision - he hadn't wanted to pressure me either way, but once I had decided to stop breast feeding he had admitted how hard he was finding it, and how much he was missing being able to be hands-on with the feeding. 

Three days on, and I know it was the right decision for us as family. She took to the bottle effortlessly and now she's more settled, content and sleeping for longer, she's going 4 hours between each feed, I know she's getting enough milk and everyone has been able to give her a feed. I've been able to sleep for longer than 15 minute cat-naps and I'm beginning to feel human again. My back is starting to ease a little and I'm no longer dreading feeds. My boobs are still horrendously sore - your milk drying up is not a pleasant process, but hopefully I'm past the worst of it. I've got my body back, and I'm excited to be back in control again. 

I have a new-found deep respect for any mother who is able to maintain breast feeding long-term, I think you are amazing, I really do. Maybe it comes more naturally to some, but I'm damned sure it is pretty blooming horrendous for most women, and you're made of tough stuff if you continue past those first few days. 

Her favourite place to sleep! 

Mummy and Connie, feeling much more human after we switched to bottle feeding. 

I'm excited for our final week all together at home as a family of four before Liam returns to work. We're looking forward to more visitors, plenty more cakes and biscuits to fuel the night feeds, and a lovely family BBQ at my in-laws' on Sunday to celebrate Father's Day. 

Just some of Connie's visitors over the past week, lucky girl! 

We had a cute tea party on Sunday for the Queen's 90th Birthday - I love this photo we snapped, such a fun one to look back on. 

As ever, I've taken a million photographs and have so enjoyed sharing them with everyone. Social media is a wonderful thing, and I've been so overwhelmed by all the amazing comments, love and support that's been extended to us through my social profiles. Who doesn't love a cute bit of baby spam, eh? 

newborn feet
BABY FEET!! 

baby jeans
Jeans and shoe socks...jeez! Cutness overload Connie! 

cousins
Four cousins.... Connie (6 days), Andreas (8 months), Albert (2 years 10 months), Paris (3 years 11 months) 


Today (Day 7) was Connie's first outing and Bert's first ride in the double buggy - it was nothing glamorous, just a walk to the post office and Tesco for supplies, but it was great to get out, get some exercise and some fresh air. I love our Cosatto double buggy, it's fab! 

**Some of you might wonder why we even need a double buggy with Bert being nearly 3 and totally capable of walking now - but we need it because I don't drive and so we walk absolutely everywhere in Bedford...I can't expect Bert to walk the miles I do, or stand on a buggy board for often 45 minute+ walks so for now a double buggy will be the answer when I'm out and about with the both of them.**

My world: Connie and Bert in their double buggy ready for an exciting trip to Tesco! Ha! 

Right, I'll leave it there for now as I've waffled on enough - but I wanted to get this post written and published asap - I hoped that the sooner I got it down the more raw the feelings and emotions would be. I know I'll love to look back at this in years to come and remember those first heady newborn days and all that they bring!

Mrs B 

xxx

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Homemade Fig Rolls: Mrs Bishop is still baking...literally!

So, it's due date day tomorrow - I'll be officially 40 weeks and there's no sign of baby girl yet... 

I'm getting to that "I'm really fed up of being pregnant" stage now and I'm so excited about her arrival. Obviously, I'm slightly dreading the birth part...but I'm also feeling weirdly excited for the challenge of it all too. 

I'm trying to fill my days with lots of nice things rather than just sitting around waiting and fretting (plus, I want to try to stay super-active until the end in order to hopefully aid a speedy/stress free birth!) so I've made sure to plan meetings with friends, trips out, walks, and even managed to squish in a baking session today! 

I saw this recipe on The Guardian last week for homemade fig rolls by the super Felicity Cloake who does a brilliant regular series of "Perfect" recipes. I've been using these recipes for years now, they are always fail-safe and super-reliable as she does all the hard work for you by embarking on testing multiple versions of a recipe for you and coming up with her own final "perfect" version based on what she's learnt. Aside from being great recipes the columns are always a good read if you're a foodie like me! 

I knew I had to give these fig rolls a try as soon as I saw them as the classic fig roll has always been my twin sisters absolute favourite biscuit and as she was coming up to visit me this week (for half term, she works in a school) it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get my bake on! 

Mrs Bishop's still baking - bump shot 40 weeks
Mrs Bishop's still baking! 

HOMEMADE FIG ROLLS
(makes 16)

Ingredients for the pastry:

150g plain flour
75g plain wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt
140g cold butter, diced
1 egg yolk
About 2 tbsp milk


Ingredients for the filling:

200g dried figs, stems removed, roughly chopped
Grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
25g almonds, roughly chopped
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp granulated sugar

(Head over to Felicity's recipe for the super simple method)

homemade fig rolls ingredients
Figgy jammy filling ingredients

pastry for homemade fig rolls
My super-short, rich, sweet pastry all ready to roll.

assembling fig rolls
Assembling the fig rolls - 5mm thin pastry with the figgy, spicy, homemade jam down the centre...

homemade fig rolls ready for the oven
Rolled, cut, glazed and about to be sprinkled with sugar before a 25 minute bake. 

Golden and baked to perfection! 

Felicity's recipe was absolutely spot on as usual - the only change I made was adding a little more mixed spice, as I know I like my bakes to pack a punch (especially where mixed spice is concerned!) ... this is definitely a personal taste thing though. 

Reminiscent of a mince pie, these buttery, crumbly pastries are truly delectable and FAR superior (in fact, you just shouldn't compare them) to their shop bought peers. 

Each pastry/biscuit works out at around 165 calories, so they're most definitely a treat to be savoured, but I would highly recommend giving this bake a whirl - it is very easy and super-satisying. 

I wonder if I'll get the chance to bake anything else before baby-girl Bishop makes her arrival? 

Mrs B

xxx
Homemade Fig Rolls Recipe
^^Pin this for later ^^

Saturday, 28 May 2016

A new addition before our new addition...

Friends of Sylvanian Families Badge
I was 39 weeks pregnant on Friday (27th May) and am now officially into the final countdown for our baby girl's arrival - eeek! It is so exciting and seems to be suddenly upon us as this pregnancy has truly just flown by! I feel like I've barely had the time to acknowledge I'm pregnant, let alone think too much about it! 

Mrs Bishop's 39 week baby girl bump
39 week mega-bump! Baby Girl Bishop will be with us before we know it, how exciting! 

This week has been my final full-on work week, and I'm now hoping to slow down and take it a little bit easier if I can. I have a few more jobs on my blog to do list, a few work admin tasks and a little bit more scheduling to do for work, but nothing major! I'm hoping to get in plenty of reading and crochet time over the next week, and just really try to enjoy these last snippets of time as a family with just one child. 

I'm well aware the next few months are going be a bit of a rude awakening for The Bertster - getting used to life as a big brother won't be easy: having to share his home, his parents, his stuff, probably won't be plain sailing - so we're trying to make the most of the calm before the storm, and prepare him as best as you can prepare an almost three year old for any big changes that are afoot. 

For us, we think that keeping his routine (not that he has a major one) as similar as possible, and ensuring he still gets lot of quality time and attention from us will be key to making this transition into life as a family of 4 a little easier (hopefully!) He has his favourite times of day at the moment, such as story time before bed and time to play with his dolls house in the afternoons, and we will endeavour to ensure they stay as a regular part of his day. 

I can't blame him on the dolls house front, it's pretty much still my favourite item in my whole house, haha! 

Mrs Bishop's Victorian Doll's House
Our glorious Victorian dolls house - with 6 rooms (two attic rooms in the roof you can't see in the photo), a hallway and landing space and working lights! 

Inside our beloved Doll's House lives a mixture of beautiful Sylvanian Families (which are just the right size for our house, hooray!) 

We have the Chocolate Rabbit family, Polar Bear family and Walnut Squirrel family all happily settled in the house, and this week a new-family-on-the-block moved in and we are super-excited to introduce you to them.

Meet Billy, Nancy, Mandy and Jenny...the Goat Family...
Billy is the new postman in Sylvanian Village who delivers important letters and parcels to everyone in the village. He delivers post every day and knows every single corner of Sylvanian Village. 
Nancy is good at quilting and can make anything from clothes and small items to big items such as curtains. She holds sewing classes for mothers and daughters in the village which are very fun and always popular. 
Mandy loves writing letters. She sends hand-made birthday cards to family and school friends every year. Everyone looks forward to receiving her letters because they are always filled with heart-warming messages. 
Jenny loves to sing while swinging on the swings. She likes it when her mother pushes her on the swings. She also loves swinging on the swings at the nursery, but gets a little upset when she has to let someone else take a turn.
The Goat Family is priced at £16.99
The Goat Family from Sylvanian Families
Nancy, Billy, Mandy and Jenny - the Goat Family from Sylvanian Families. 

Bert absolutely loves moving new families into his dolls house, and he plays so beautifully with both the house and its contents, as well as the little Sylvanian figures, that it is an absolute pleasure to watch him as his imagination comes alive and he moves the figures around from room to room - bathing the babies and putting them to bed etc. 

It was especially good that this new family featured a baby girl just shy of our baby girl's arrival! Perfect timing...thanks Sylvanian! 

Bert playing with his Goat Family from Sylvanian Families
Bert loving life with his new family of goats. 

The newest family from Sylvanian really doesn't disappoint - they are as cute as ever, with exquisite detail from their clothing to the cute little horns on the Daddy Goat, aptly named Billy! These robust little figures are perfect for chubby little hands to enjoy, and Bert especially loves that he can dress and undress them (what is it with kids and stripping off their toys!?) 


Sylvanian Families in Mrs Bishop's Doll's house
Beth, the baby Polar Bear girl is having a toddler tantrum - nothing new there then! 

I'm looking forward to a lovely week or so of quality time with Bert before our little bundle arrives - I'm sure we'll spend many hours with our Sylvanian Families, bringing the gorgeous characters to life and enjoying playtime with our favourite toys!

If you missed my other Sylvanian Family post (The One Where The Walnut Squirrels Come To Stay..) you can read it here

Exciting to think that the next post may well be announcing the arrival of our baby girl! 

Mrs B

xxx


Disclosure: We were sent The Goat Family from Sylvanian Families for free in exchange for this honest review, as part of our 'Friends of Sylvanian Families' partnership. 

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

15 Minute Pudding with Tefal Actifry: Apple, Banana and Apricot with Cinnamon


About 4 years ago, in a bid to slim down for my wedding day, I made a rushed purchase of a Tefal Actifry machine, in the hope that its air cooking and minimal use of oil would aid a swift weight loss in time for the big day. 

I'd heard great things about the air fryer which uses only one tablespoon of oil to make enough chips to feed a hungry family of four, and couldn't wait to use my new piece of kit in the kitchen. Hubby thought it was going to be a complete waste of money, and assumed it would be one of those gadgets that once the novelty had worn off, we'd rarely use. Oh, how wrong he was. *insert smug face here* 

Four years on and we've used our Actifry multiple times weekly: from delicious healthy homemade chips and wedges, cooking Bert a quick chicken nugget tea without turning the oven on, delicious roast potatoes, and even sweet treats - the Actifry is a versatile little number that we now wouldn't be without. 

Our four year old machine was looking rather tired though, so when the people over at Tefal asked if I'd put their newest model through its paces, I jumped at the chance to clear the decks and make room for a shiny Actifry upgrade!

Tefal Actifry Express 1.5 L

We were sent the Tefal Actifry express XL machine which retails at around £249.99 and can cook enough food to feed a family of six - this capacity upgrade comes at a perfect time for us - just as we are expanding our family - more mouths to feed and plenty of room in the Actifry to accommodate. 

Tefal Actifry Express 1.5 L
Our shiny new Actifry ready to be put through its paces. 

As expected our new piece of kit hasn't disappointed - it has all the same functionality as our old Actifry - with bigger capacity and a shinier, more aesthetic appearance. 

Tefal Actifry Express 1.5 L

So far we've cooked a variety of fresh potato and sweet potato chips and wedges, frozen chips and nuggets (in 18 minutes, no need to heat up a big oven) and we've even made a scrumptious dessert in our new machine. I thought the dessert would be a good recipe to share here on the blog, as most people think of the Actifry as just a healthy way to cook chips, when it can do so much more...

APPLE, BANANA AND APRICOT WITH CINNAMON
served with sweetened half fat creme fraiche 
(serves 2)

Ingredients:

For the fruit mixture:

2 apples, peeled and quartered
1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/2 tbsp sunflower oil
125g dried apricots, halved
2 bananas, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp brown sugar 
1/2 tbsp golden syrup
25g butter

For the creme fraiche:

100ml half fat creme fraiche
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Method:

1. Peel and quarter your apples, mix the heaped teaspoon of ground cinnamon with 1/2 tbsp sunflower oil and add the apple then the cinnamon oil to the Actifry. Cook for 10 minutes. 

2. Add the chopped banana, apricots, brown sugar, golden syrup and butter to the Actifry after 11 minutes and cook for a further 5 minutes until golden, sticky, caramelised and delicious. 

3. While the fruit cooks mix a tbsp of icing sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste into some half fat creme fraiche, and leave in the fridge to stay cool. 

Serve the hot fruit fresh from the Actifry with a good dollop of the sweetened creme fraiche. 

Alternatively you could serve with cream, ice cream or custard. 

Apple, Banana and Apricots with Cinnamon cooked in a Tefal Actifry Express XL 1.5 L
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This is a super speedy but totally delicious pudding - so comforting and perfect for any season - served with hot custard in the Winter for a warming spicy pud, or with the sweetened creme fraiche or ice cream in Spring/Summer for a lighter affair. I love that this pudding takes only 15 minutes to cook, with a tiny bit of peeling and chopping, you can have a fresh pudding on the table in twenty minutes from start to finish. 

Obviously, this recipe is slightly more indulgent than most of the things we cook using the Actifry - but you need a treat every once in a while, and a little of what you fancy does you good after all. 

Have you ever used an air fryer before? I'd love to hear your thoughts if you have...we love ours and wouldn't be without it. 

On that note, I'm off to make a big batch of chunky air fried potato wedges to feed my hungry boys and about-to-burst baby bump! 

Happy cooking all...

Mrs B

xxx


Diclosure: We were sent the Tefal Actifry Express XL in exchange for this honest review.