Saturday 30 September 2017

Halloween Giveaway

This Halloween I'm teaming up with the fabulous Party Pieces to throw Bert the mother of all Halloween parties and he is SO FREAKIN' EXCITED. 

He has been fascinated by "howl-a-ween" (this is what he's always called it!) and because his birthday falls in the summer holidays each year he never really gets the chance to have a party with his friends - as most of them are away on holiday, so this year we've decided to throw him a big halloween bash, and thanks to Party Pieces' amazing Halloween range, we've got loads of cool decorations, games, party bags and tableware to make sure it's a huge success! Thanks guys, you certainly know how to make a 4 year old very happy! 

Of course there will be a huge post on here all about our party come Halloween weekend, so do watch this space. But in the meantime, I wanted to give you all a chance to win a FAB bundle of Halloween decorations so you too can get into the spooky spirit come the 31st. 

Just enter via the Gleam app below for your chance to win:

Pumpkin Party Bunting £6.49 x3

Halloween Pumpkin Honeycomb Decorations (3 pack) £6.99 x3

Bat Cookie Cutter £1.00 x4 

Total prize bundle worth £45!
Halloween Giveaway with Mrs Bishop

**UK entrants only. This is a personal giveaway. Giveaway closes Tuesday 24th October 11:59pm to give me a chance to post out the prize in time for Halloween on 31st.**

Party Pieces Halloween Giveaway

SuperLucky Blog Giveaway Linky

Thursday 28 September 2017

Bert's First Swimming Lesson at Robinson Pools & Fitness, Bedford

It's Mr Bishop here again! Chief reviewer over at Mrs Bishop's Bakes and Banter, it would seem! 

Today, I'm bringing you a review of our local leisure centre - Robinson Pools and Fitness in Bedford. Mrs Bishop reviewed the gym here and their lovely new soft play centre at John Bunyan here

Bert's First Swimming lesson at Robinson Pools & Fitness Bedford

I think any parent would agree that swimming lessons are a vitally important part of growing up. Learning to swim at a young age not only gives children confidence in the water, but it’s a life long skill that will be used by them all throughout their lives, whether that’s swimming for exercise, or swimming for fun either at local pools or on holiday, right down to being safe in the water should you ever fall in a river or have to swim away from a shark in the sea. So getting kids in the water and getting them lessons from an early age should be a standard part of childhood! My brother and I had lessons as a youngster, and I have loads of fond memories to this day of going every week and what I learnt, and even though I don’t swim as much as I’d like as an adult, I still class myself as a strong swimmer and confident in the water thanks to these lessons (my brother and I were known as the Dangerous Brothers at our lessons – possibly ironically, but true nonetheless).

Albert has never been much of a water-baby. Almost every bath for the first 2 years of his life resulted in a teary-tantrum, and still to this day he isnt really keen on getting his hair wet in the bath and washing it! Connie on the other hand, is obsessed with it! She loves bathtimes and one of her first words was ‘SPLASH!’, so with Connie being more into the water, we have visited more swimming pools locally and on holiday, which has resulted in Albert becoming slightly more acceptable of the water the past 6 months! As we live in a river town, and knowing the importance of learning to swim at a young age, we decided it was time for four year old Albert to start his swimming journey into the blue (pun intended).

Our local pool is Robinson Pools and Fitness, which has recently had a major refurb, and my goodness has it improved!! I’ve swam here ever since I can remember, so I have many fond memories of this pool (and the vending machine) over the past 30 years! My mum used to work here when I was younger as well, so I spent many hours swimming, many more running about the place playing, and the longest 3 minutes of my young life standing on the highest diving platform waiting to jump. Bringing my own son here to swim is always a trip down memory lane. As a big pool, Robinson Pool naturally does a whole range of swimming lessons (see info below), so we decided to sign Albert up firstly for a 1:1 lesson with an instructor, to get him used to learning in that environment, and get him assessed for ability level, and of course, to see if he liked it and give us a taste of what swimming lessons would involve for him.

We booked our lesson with Dan a few weeks in advance, so we had told Albert what the plan was to get him ready and not spring it on him. By the day of the lesson he was very excited! We got him all dressed up in his Ninja Turtles swimsuit, and because he was so excited waiting to start the lesson, we quickly went over the first rule of swimming by the pool, NO RUNNING!! Which also includes bouncing up and down on the spot with glee.

Bert's First Swimming Lesson at Robinson Pool Bedford

Dan introuduced himself and Bert was very quick to say hello and listen to what he needed to do. The lesson was 30 minutes in total, and we started straight in the big pool. I went in with Bert as well, and we started doing some exercises in the pool and soon got Bert splashing away with his legs. After around 15 minutes we moved over to the warmer small pool where Bert could touch the floor and went through some other games and exercises.

Dan was great throughout, really engaging and encouraging with Bert and clear on what he needed to do. He was also explaining to myself the whole time what he was doing and why, and how that helped Bert develop the skills he would need. 

The lesson included lots of swim toys as well, from noodles (which Bert referred to as his ‘sea-snake’), to floats to sinking seals and water rockets. As with all learning, Dan was well aware that making a lesson fun is a quick fire way to engage children and get them to listen and learn. A lot of the games we played were not just for fun, but doubled up as confidence building exercises in the water. Dan explained throughout that the early lessons are a lot more aimed at water-confidence as well as learning basic swimming skills, so for an animal-mad child like Bert having to pick up a goggled-seal toy from the bottom of the shallow end was brilliant at getting his hair wet and getting him used to submerging his face! 

We finished the 1:1 session by building up to Bert jumping off the side of the pool all by himself into the water and bouncing about the small pool without anyone holding onto him, something I would never imagine he would do by himself half an hour before! The change in confidence in him in just that short time was amazing to see.

Bert's First Swimming Lesson at Robinson Pool Bedford

Overall, having 1:1 time with a trainer, coupled with Dan’s excellent enthusiasm, teaching methods and explanations, meant the lesson was a huge success with Bert. He was clearly sad to have finished and leave the pool, and he asked if he could come back to swim ‘every day after school’! I feel the 1-on-1 was a great way to start, and we’ll be looking to having some more of these with Bert to build his confidence further before he is ready for group lessons. I even learnt a lot myself about methods etc to put into practise, so that when we are in the pool together outside of lessons, Bert can still be learning. A favourite school mantra - Teaching begins at home!

Thanks to Dan and to Robinson’s for the lesson, when Bert wins the Olympic gold in 100m front crawl in 15 years time, I hope you remember this is where it started!


Monthly prices for swimming lessons at Robinson Pool, Bedford

Stages Ducklings 1-6 - 30 minute lessons
Swim School Monday Non Member £18.55
Swim School Monday Leisure Card* £16.45
Swim School Tues-Sun Non Member £20.35
Swim School Tues-Sun Leisure Card* £18.04

Stage 7 - 45 minute lessons
Swim School 45min Non Member £22.65
Swim School 45min Leisure Card* £20.55

Stage 8/9/10 Advanced - 60 minute lessons
Swim School Non Member £24.60
Swim School Leisure Card* £23.48

Price per lesson for 1:1 Swimming lessons

1:1 Lesson - 30 minute lessons
Non Member £18.35 per lesson
Leisure Card* £16.81 per lesson

**Leisure cards can be purchased at £5.50 per child per year and discount swimming lessons as well as casual swimming.**

Robinson Pool and Fitness is managed by Fusion Lifestyle, head to the Fusion Swim School homepage for more info. 

Have you signed up your little ones for swimming lessons yet?

Mr Bishop

We were given a free 1:1 swimming lesson in return for this honest review. 

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Mr Bishop reviews GTech's Cordless Grass Trimmer

Mr Bishop reviews the Cordless Grass Trimmer from GTech

As soon as the calendar moved into September this year, the weather turned freezing. It’s like a switch was flipped. That’s meant we haven’t spent as much time in the garden as we were hoping and as much as we have done in warmer Septembers the past few years. Last weekend was a bit different though, come Sunday morning – the sun was out and it was a bit of a scorcher! Twinned with a free weekend and some rare spare time – that meant one thing, garden time!

I recently reviewed Gtech’s Cordless Hedge Trimmer HERE, and as part of their excellent garden range, Gtech also do a Cordless Grass Trimmer which retails currently at £99. They asked us if we’d like to give it a go, and so we’d been waiting for a few sunny days to give us the chance to try it out. It has been quite a few weeks since the last gardening we did, so the weeds have had a chance to sprout up and start messing the place up. It’s important to keep on top of the gardening over the colder months where you can, so come the Springtime it doesn’t look like a rainforest. So when the sun was out in force, I took the Gtech Grass Trimmer outside to give it a test-run.

The first thing I noticed about the Trimmer was… no wires! In signature Gtech fashion, there are no wires to trip you up, limit availability or cut through - so that made wielding the trimmer pretty easy. It’s very light as well for a power tool, the Gtech Website says it comes in at 1.75kg! So about half the weight of the average newborn baby, but way more effective at cutting grass than one, and there is no shoulder harness needed or hefty petrol motor to carry about either. The benfit of an electric motor as well is that it’s A LOT quieter than a petrol trimmer. All in all, it made for a very relaxing garden sesh.

GTech Cordless Grass Trimmer

I had it out the box and put together in no more than 5 minutes tops – there are only about 4 parts to it. You clip the protector shield in place on the cutting head, clip on a plastic blade, attach that to the main pole unit, and then clip in a battery pack. It is easy beyond belief to put together/take apart, it’s like a giant kinder-egg toy, it just clips together instantly. It also uses the same battery pack as the Cordless Hedge Trimmer we used before, so I got the pack for that out (which was fully charged already) and swapped it straight in so I didn’t even have to wait to charge the new battery! I had unpacked it and was using it in less time than it takes to mix up a jug of September Pimms.

GTech Cordless Grass Trimmer

I’ve already mentioned it’s easily manoueverable - you can move the handle into a different angle with one push of a button, and change the angle of the head with another – so you can hold it comfortably no matter how tall you are. The head spins round as well just by moving it with your hand so you can trim flower bed edges, and you can get in all sorts of crevices. You can really make some quick adjustments on the fly within seconds with minimal effort, so you never have to bend down or get into a funny position to get in all those corners and hard angles. No back-ache here the next day.

GTech Cordless Grass Trimmer

Usually trimmers have a little plastic wire that you need to pull out that usually get’s tangled/snaps off meaning you need an engineering degree to take it apart to unwind more wire out, but this trimmer uses little plastic cutting blades that just clip on. It’s not fiddly, and they aren’t sharp so you can’t hurt yourself doing it. They work great, once it was on I didn’t make any adjustments to it at all, and it did my whole garden easily without it once breaking. You get around 20 in the box, and it even comes with a lifetime supply for free, you can order more through the website whenever you need them for no extra cost, so you’ll never run out.

BEFORE/AFTER GTech Cordless Grass Trimmer

BEFORE/AFTER GTech Cordless Grass Trimmer

The actual cutting the machine does is excellent as well, I didn’t have any issues cutting edges and weeds down, with nothing causing any problems to it, and no jamming or stoppages at all. I finished the whole garden in a very short time without breaking a sweat (all on one battery charge no less). A trimmer is great for getting hard to reach places, and you can see from the photos I easily managed to get not just the edges, but round the tree and garden swing as well. There is even a back section of my garden that my corded lawnmower doesn’t properly reach, so braving that jungle, I just did the normal grass there as well as the edges. Take that grass!

BEFORE/AFTER GTech Cordless Grass Trimmer

To sum up, I had a great time gardening with the Gtech Grass Trimmer. It’s light and easy to use, and quiet for a trimmer. The build quality and style of the device is evident within seconds of unpacking and using it. I love the battery packs as well, it’s a great addition to the Gtech range of products! My only gripe is that when you pack it away, it doesn’t fit completely back into the box like the Hedge Trimmer does, I’ll need to store the head separately as once it’s clipped together you can’t unclip it and it no longer fits back in the box. I’m don’t think it’s been designed to keep in the box anyway so that’s not really much of a criticism!

I can definitely recommend it – it’s great to quickly get out there and tidy up some messy patches so you can enjoy your garden at short notice whenever the sun decides to show it’s shiny face!

Mr B

Mr Bishop reviews the Cordless Grass Trimmer from GTech

Sunday 24 September 2017

A nice cuppa char with Adagio Teas * Review & Giveaway *

Today I'm teaming up with the fabulous small, family-owned company Adagio Teas - who produce the finest teas and teaware in the UK.

Not only do Adagio sell a stunning collection of different styles, flavours and blends of tea - they also use their website to share their knowledge of all things tea to educate their customer.

Since working with them I've gained so much tea-related knowledge!

For example, did you know there are 5 basic styles of tea - but each style comes from the same plant (the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant), and its difference comes from the way it's processed or manufactured.

The five main styles are:

  • White Tea
  • Green Tea
  • Oolong Tea
  • Black Tea
  • Pu Erh Tea
I also learnt that tea processing happens in five basic steps; some teas don't utilise all of these steps, while other teas repeat them several times. Basic processing is Plucking, Withering (allowing the leaves to wilt and soften), Rolling (to shape the leaves and wring out the juices), Oxidizing (see below) and Firing (ie: Drying).

Amazing how much there is to know about the humble cup of tea, eh?

I've always been a huge tea drinker (apart from in pregnancy when I couldn't stand it!)...I'd say that I used to drink about 2-5 cups per day, most days - until last September when I took part in #SugarFreeSeptember which saw me remove all the processed sugar and sweeteners from my diet for a whole month.
Previous to this I had enjoyed two sweeteners in my tea and coffee, but during the sugar free challenge I removed all the sweetener from my hot drinks, and in turn found that I actually enjoyed unsweetened coffee much more than unsweetened tea. After the challenge I tried drinking sweetened hot drinks again but they tasted really disgusting to me! The sugar free month had clearly changed my palette (shame I still liked the taste of cakes & biscuits!) and so from that point on I cut out sugar and sweetener indefinitely from my hot drinks. 

Since then I've definitely drunk more coffee than tea (which is odd for me) but more recently I've started getting in to trying different styles and flavours of tea, instead of just my usual English breakfast teabags! Broadening my horizons and finding out what I love when it comes to the wonderful world of tea. 

The lovely people at Adagio Teas have helped me on the journey to discovering my favourite styles, flavours and blends of tea with their amazing ranges...they sent me over everything I'd need to explore a range of teas, including loads of styles and flavours of tea, as well as some stunning glassware to brew and drink from. 

I was so excited to get brewing and tasting!

selection of teas from Adagio Teas

The selection of teas they kindly sent over included:

Which to try first?? 

I couldn't resist the lure of Candy Apple black tea, just as autumn is upon us and I'm starting to feel all cozy and ready for the colder weather and the falling leaves, this seemed like the perfect blend for me...and (in the style of Janice from F.R.I.E.N.D.S) OH MY GOD - it is AMAZING!!

Eggs on Rye with Candy Apple Tea in Jumbo Glass teacup & saucer
Enjoying a cup of Candy Apple tea with my lunch! 

Containing a mixture of black tea, apple pieces, natural caramel apple flavour, and cinnamon bark this is a rich and heady tea experience. It is sweet without being sickly, and evokes memories of sticky toffee apple faces from halloweens of my past. Both Liam and I absolutely love this blend, in fact - I'm mentioning it first because it is definitely at the top of our list from our tastings so far. 

Next on the hit list for me was the Pina Colada herbal tea. A Pina Colada just happens to be my favourite cocktail of all time, so I was really excited at the sound of it. This blend is a herbal tea containing a mixture of rose hips, hibiscus, apple pieces, dried coconut, natural pineapple flavour, pineapple pieces and natural coconut flavour. Sounded scrummy, tasted scrummier! This came a close second for me to the Candy Apple. 

What has amazed me about these teas is that they actually taste of what they say they are going to - I've tried countless 'flavoured' teas in the past and found them all to taste of murky wishy-washy dishwater! These teas all deliver strong tastes and the most intoxicating aromas. 

Another thing I love about them is that not only can you see from the packaging clearly what type of tea it is (black tea, green tea, herbal tea, ice tea) but you can also see a clear list of ingredients and instructions/advice on how best to brew your cup. For example, the candy apple loose tea uses 1 teaspoon per cup, should be left to brew for 3 minutes and your water temperature should be 100ºC. 

If you're into seasonal teas then I urge you to try their Pumpkin Spice black tea which contains black tea, natural pumpkin spice flavour, cinnamon bark, ginger root, cloves, marigold flowers and cardamom. It's deep, bitter and spicy - really warming and leaves a tingle on your tongue. 

For all of the loose teas we've been trying we've used the stunning glassware kindly sent to us by Adagio - this included their jumbo teacup and saucer, which is my absolute fave - a bloggers dream in terms of aesthetics, it is really so beautiful. They also sent the petit teapot (which brews two cups) - both the jumbo cup and petit teapot come with in-built tea strainers so you can use both the loose leaf teas, or teabags. FAB! 

Jumbo glass cup and saucer
The stunning Jumbo Teacup & Saucer

What has amazed me about all of the Adagio glassware is how amazingly light it is and that it is  made of tempered glass, which is very sturdy and able to withstand extreme temperatures, both hot and cold. All of the Adagio glassware is also microwave and dishwasher safe! Yay!

For something a little different Liam and I have been trying Adagio's iced tea pouches - they're basically a giant tea bag which you add to 1.2 litres of cold water and pop in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. Adagio kindly sent us their glass pitcher and four long iced tea glasses to use for the three iced tea flavours they sent us: mango (black tea), white peach (white tea) and rooibos vanilla (herbal tea). 

An Adagio Teas Iced Tea Pouch
An Adagio Teas Iced Tea Pouch, isn't it a thing of beauty?

Iced Tea Pitcher in the fridge
My glass pitcher of iced tea, in the fridge ready to steep overnight. 

Although slightly the wrong season for iced teas (I'm used to drinking the uber sweet Lipton bottled varieties on holiday in foreign countries) we are still getting the odd warm day here in the UK, and it's nice to have something cold and refreshing in the fridge. I've been really surprised at how much Liam has enjoyed them - opting for a cold fruity iced tea on his return to work rather than a coffee. We've tried all three flavours, our favourite being the Mango, closely followed by the White Peach, and then the Vanilla (which is very sweet). We've pretty much had a pitcher of iced tea in our fridge constantly since the Adagio goodies arrived - and I'm excited for next summer when we can enjoy more pitchers of iced tea in the garden! 

Adagio iced tea in the garden

Glass of Iced Tea

The final tea I've managed to try so far from the selection is the English Breakfast Teabags - how could I try this huge range of tea, without sampling their version of my all time favourite? I managed to grab ten minutes for myself last week, and brewed a jumbo cup of tea, set a tray with milk and sugar in the gorgeous Adagio cream & sugar bowls and crept upstairs to enjoy a cuppa on my comfy bed in peace, with just my cat Pickle for company! Blissful. I love that the English Breakfast teabags each come individually wrapped - which means not only do they stay super fresh, but also that they're portable. I love keeping a few wrapped teabags in my handbag so that I'm never caught short without access to one of my favourite drinks. These wrapped bags are especially good if you travel - I've lost count of the amount of places I've visited on holiday that have dreadful tea! 

five minutes peace, a cuppa in bed

I've been totally blown away by Adagio Teas - not only the quality and beauty of their glassware, but the amazing flavour profiles and aromas from their teas. I genuinely had no idea I could enjoy tea without milk so much - it really is a revelation to me. 

And the Candy Apple black tea is one that I'll always have to have stocked in my cupboard forever more!



If you're interested in giving some of Adagio's teas and tea blends a try then enter my brilliant giveaway below where you could win your very own super cute petit teapot and two sampler sets of your choice from the Adagio Teas website! 

Win with Mrs Bishop and Adagio Teas


Thursday 21 September 2017

RECIPE: Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers Recipe by Mrs Bishop

Inspired by last week's trip to Edible Ornamentals Chilli Ranch I'm sharing a brand new recipe today for the most addictively scrumptious bacon wrapped jalapeño poppers. 

Shawn (owner at Edible Ornamentals) talked me through the basic recipe and I've been playing around and perfecting it ever since. Now I'm confident I've got the ULTIMATE recipe.


(makes 14 poppers)


7 Jalapeño peppers, halved longways
1 200g tub of full fat cream cheese
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce (I used Edible Ornamentals, naturally)
salt & pepper, to season
10-14 rashers of streaky bacon 


1. Pre-heat your oven to 180º.
2. Slice open your chilli peppers lengthways - leaving on the stalks if possible (this helps the peppers to keep their shape). Remove all the pith and seeds, then wash your hands thoroughly. 
3. Empty the tub of cream cheese into a bowl, adding 2 tbsp of your chosen sweet chilli sauce, then season with salt and pepper. Mix until fully combined and taste - add more sauce or seasoning depending on your own preferences. 
4. Carefully stuff each half of the jalapeño peppers with the cream cheese mixture using a teaspoon, level the cream cheese off as it will swell in the oven. 
5. Wrap each pepper half in a rasher of streaky bacon and place on a baking tray. 
6. Once all 14 pepper halves are wrapped, bake on a baking tray for 25 minutes. 

Best served still warm, will more sweet chilli sauce to dip. 


Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers Recipe by Mrs Bishop
Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers Recipe by Mrs Bishop

45% off courses at The Chilli Academy, Edible Ornamentals Chilli Ranch, Bedford

Today I'm bringing you an amazing offer courtesy of Chilli Olly (The Chilli Chef!) from the Chilli Academy at Edible Ornamentals Chilli Ranch in Bedfordshire. 

If you haven't heard of them before read my post all about the day I spent exploring the chilli ranch last week - it was a truly brilliant day and I can't wait to go back again soon!

One of Edible Ornamentals newest ventures is their amazing cookery school The Chilli Academy - where you can attend a range of classes to hone your cookery skills and expand your chilli-knowledge in an environment like no other: slap bang in the middle of a real life chilli ranch! 

The Chilli Ranch, Edible Ornamentals, Bedfordshire.
Down on the chilli ranch... 

The courses combine use of the best ingredients, time with industry experts who'll teach insider knowledge and tips, tricks and skills meanwhile developing your passion and understanding for all things chilli.

The Chilli Academy brings you into a world of flavour paired with finding the right heat level for you to enjoy. The chefs and tutors will deliver inspiring classes that expand your palate and enjoyment.

Mrs Bishop's chilli sauce creation from The Chilli Academy

Last week I attended the chilli sauce course and it was FABULOUS! I came away having learnt so much about chillies and with a new-found confidence for balancing heat, flavour and texture to create the perfect chilli sauce. At the end of the course you'll have created your very own jar(s) of sauce, labelled and ready for you to enjoy - I'm already into jar two of my creation, it is so delicious - hubby is literally putting it on everything! Ha!
Chilli Olly at the Chilli Academy, Bedford

Olly has very kindly offered Mrs Bishop's Bakes and Banter readers a whopping 45% off his Chilli Sauce and Mexican cooking course if booked before 31/12/17 - its a huge discount and I recommend you snap it up - the courses make the PERFECT Christmas present for any chilli lovers, foodies or wannabe chefs, and the ranch is within an easy commute from London (about an hour by train). 

The Chilli Academy at Edible Ornamentals - course discounts

The Chilli Sauce Course 

The Academy brings you the ultimate experience in creating your own chilli sauce. You will be inspired to develop the skills you learn and the flavours you discover in producing your own range.
  • Understand Chillies 
  • Styles of Sauces 
  • Flavour combinations 
  • Creating textures 
  • Balancing Heat & Flavour 
  • Chef’s shortcuts and tips 
  • Hot and cold beverages 
  • 70% hands-on practical 
  • Live and interactive demonstrations 
  • Expert tuition and advice 
  • Your own sauces to take home 
  • Use of Chilli Academy training kitchen 
  • No washing up 
  • £70 per person **reduced to £38.50 with code LBCC45** 
  • 3 hour course 
  • max 6 people per class


The Mexican Cooking Course

  • Understand Chillies 
  • Salsa, Chutneys and Dips 
  • Mexican Food Style 
  • Creating the dishes 
  • Flavour combinations 
  • Balancing Heat & Flavour 
  • Chef’s shortcuts and tips 
  • Hot and cold beverages 
  • 70% hands-on practical 
  • Live and interactive demonstrations 
  • Informal Lunch with dishes created 
  • Expert tuition and advice 
  • Your own sauces to take home 
  • Use of Chilli Academy training kitchen 
  • No washing up 
  • £55 per person **reduced to £30.25 with code LBCC45** 
  • 3 hour class 
  • max 12 people per class 


So folks, head to The Chilli Academy website and get booking!

Use code: LBCC45 at the checkout to get your discount.

Do let me know if you book a course and let me know how you get on.

Mrs B 



Monday 18 September 2017

🌶 Day on a Chilli Ranch with Nix & Kix 🌶

Day on a chilli ranch in Bedfordshire with drinks brand NIX&KIX

Last week I spent a marvellous day on a real life Chilli Ranch (yes, they exist!) hidden away just twenty minutes drive from my door in Bedford. I'd kindly been invited to spend a day immersing myself in all-things-chilli with the luxury sparkling drinks brand NIX&KIX

If you've not heard of them before, NIX&KIX produce a beautiful selection of sparkling soft drinks with no added sugar or chemicals in a mixture of the most gorgeous fruity flavours, each with a little kick of cayenne pepper for a little pick me up. I absolutely adore these drinks, and although dubious about the added chilli before tasting - I'm now a complete convert - the added zing from the chilli really perks you up, enhances the flavour and boosts your metabolism and produces happy hormones - what's not to love? 

The NIX&KIX team source all of the fresh chillies for their drinks from Edible Ornamentals, the chilli ranch in Bedfordshire and they kindly invited me along to spend the day with them on the ranch seeing where and how the chillies are grown and to have some fun cooking and making cocktails (all using chilli, naturally!) with the chilli ranch team. 

Edible Ornamentals chilli ranch in Bedford

On arrival at the chilli ranch I was greeted by the lovely Olly (ChilliOlly - leading chilli chef, product developer and partner at Edible Ornamentals).Olly made me a chilli tea (AMAZING way to wake yourself up in the morning) and we sat chatting along with my lovely friend Amanda (Ginger Mum Blog) who also came to the ranch with me - we  relaxed in the restaurant/shop on site at the chilli ranch, before owner Shaun took us on an amazing tour of the ranch. 

What Shaun doesn't know about chillies isn't worth knowing to be quite honest - he astounded me with his knowledge and passion for the fiery chilli pepper, and I learnt so much - from understand the Scoville scale (scale used to determine heat levels of a chilli variety) to the best environments to grow them, as well as getting so much information about hundreds of varieties of chilli including:

Jalapeno, Anaheim, Poblano, Padron, Lemon Drop, Dorset Naga, Scotch Bonnet, Ghost Chilli, and the Chocolate Habanero (which doesn't taste like chocolate but is chocolate brown in colour when ripe!) all of which Shaun grows at Edible Ornamentals. 

Shaun even gave us some recipes for some fabulous dishes using chillies including how to make jalapeño poppers, which I LOVE: I can't WAIT to try those...

We got up close and personal with some of the hottest chillies on the planet: the Dorset Naga and the current hottest chilli in the world; the Carolina Reaper. Amazing! I wasn't brave enough to try the Naga or the Reaper - I rest assured that they're rather hot. ;-)

We were even let loose in the Edible Ornamentals PYO Chilli poly tunnel - where I bagged myself (quite literally) a big bag of their amazing Jalapeños (poppers here we come!)

Touring the Edible Ornamentals Chilli Ranch with NIX&KIX

I love photographing both food and nature: so getting to run wild with my camera in the poly tunnels and greenhouses at Edible Ornamentals saw me very much in my happy place: a kid in a sweet shop chilli ranch. :-)

Touring the Edible Ornamentals Chilli Ranch with NIX&KIX
Chilli heaven! 

Touring the Edible Ornamentals Chilli Ranch with NIX&KIX

Touring the Edible Ornamentals Chilli Ranch with NIX&KIX

Little beauties! 

Touring the Edible Ornamentals Chilli Ranch with NIX&KIX

Touring the Edible Ornamentals Chilli Ranch with NIX&KIX

Touring the Edible Ornamentals Chilli Ranch with NIX&KIX
Aww I loved this tiny pumpkin-shaped chilli, cute! 

A chilli filled hanging basket - I need this in my life! 

After our amazing tour, we headed into the Edible Ornamentals Chilli Academy for a chilli tasting and cooking session with chilli chef extraordinaire Chilli-Olly.

I loved tasting such a variety of chillies from the humble jalapeño to the fiery citrus lemon drop and uber hot chocolate habanero - all of which I loved. Olly then introduced us to his range of foodie products (which have won numerous awards) including sweet chilli sauce (to DIE for), chocolate chilli peanut butter (think Nutella on STEROIDS) and berry burst jam - all of which were really quite special. 

Following on from the tasting we got set free on the Chilli Academy kitchen which was full to bursting with beautiful fresh ingredients - and using some of the chillies we had just picked, we set to work making our own signature chilli sauce, salsa or jam. 

I created a chunky salsa containing a mixture of red onion, garlic, fresh ginger, nigella seeds and tinned tomatoes with jalapeño, chocolate habanero and lemon drop chillies - a very fiery combination (I like things HOT). 

I have to say that even though I made it, it's really excellent. We've used one whole jar out of the two jars I made already (less than a week later), hubby loves it too - and it's really versatile. Hopefully I can just about remember the quantities to whip up another batch when we run out!

Cooking up a fiery storm in the Edible Ornamentals Chilli Ranch Chilli Academy

After getting our cook on we were treated to a slap up home cooked lunch, lovingly made for us on site in the Chilli Ranch Restaurant which included: warm bread with chilli oil & balsamic dip to start, pork meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce with spaghetti and a vegetable bake with crispy top for main course. We finished with some delicate chocolate and lemon custard filled pastries. *HEAVEN* I need to re-create this whole menu at home soon! 

Our lovely lunch was accompanied by fiery cocktails (who doesn't love a cocktail or 3 at 2pm on Thursday afternoon...!) Olly has developed three rather marvellous concoctions using NIX&KIX drinks at the centre of each cocktail recipe, and of course the humble chilli rears its hot head in each drink too (naturally!). 

Cocktails with a fiery hit using Edible Ornamentals chillies and NIX&KIX drinks

Cocktails with a fiery hit using Edible Ornamentals chillies and NIX&KIX drinks

My absolute favourite was the Bloody Kix cocktail - but whatever you're tipple of choice, there'll be something here you'll love. Three recipes: one vodka, one Pimms, one spiced rum > what's not to love? 

Here are the recipes...give them a go, I'd love to hear what you think!

Bloody Kix Cocktail using NIX&KIX



Cocktails aside, I spent all day drinking NIX&KIX cans - at only 50 calories per can, I really didn't worry about drinking one of each flavour: Peach & Vanilla, Mango & Ginger and Cucumber & Mint (my fave!) *HINT* They're especially good with a shot of gin thrown in, I like to call it 'The Lucy'. You're welcome. 

We finished our day chattering over cocktails and I was kindly given some beautiful chilli plants to take home: an Adorno chilli (left) and Super Chilli F1 (right), as well as some of the amazing products from the Edible Ornamentals shop (keep an eye on my social platforms for more about these). 

Chilli loot from Edible Ornamentals in Bedfordshire

I can't tell you how amazing it was to see first hand where the chillies for NIX&KIX are sourced, and to understand the dedication, love, and knowledge that goes into to growing the chillies commercially. Edible Ornamentals blew me away - a business prided on down-to-earth, love-what-we-do passion, one of the friendliest bunch of people you could hope to meet: I'll definitely be heading back there for more PYO, some of their cookery courses, and to sample more of their restaurant menu. I even heard on the grapevine they do a chilli afternoon tea - YES PLEASE! 

If you haven't given NIX&KIX a try yet you can find them in a selection of shops and restaurants across London, at Edible Ornamentals in Bedford or of course, you can buy them on their website

Mrs B