Sunday 29 June 2014

June Baking Challenge: Beer Battered Onion Rings

This months challenge wasn't so much of a 'bake' but a 'make' - and one, like everything else on my list, that I'd never gotten round to making before. 

Beer Battered Onion Rings

I've been wanting to make my own beer battered onion rings ever since I tried these beauties at a pub local to my mum's house a few months ago…

still the best onion rings I've ever eaten at The Jolly Farmers Pub in Reigate, Surrey

I really wanted to give them my best shot, and I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. Although they didn't beat the 'secret' recipe of the Jolly Farmers rings, they definitely gave them a run for their money - and I always get a huge buzz from creating something I've never made before and it working out well. 

I found this recipe worked really well (it is a combination of about 4 different recipes I've read) and it made a hugely generous portion for two people. 


1 cup/128g plain flour
250 ml beer
1/2 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 large brown onion, cut into half inch rings
sunflower or vegetable oil for deep frying


1. Sprinkle the onion rings with a little of the plain flour so each ring is lightly coated in flour. Set aside, and make your batter.

2. Pour the rest of the flour, all of the spices and seasonings in a bowl and whisk with the beer to form a smooth batter. Set aside for 10 minutes to rest.

3. Pour the oil into a large saucepan and heat up - when the oil reaches the right temperature for frying the onion rings a small piece of bread should brown when dropped into the oil. 

floured onion rings waiting for a battering...

4. Dip the floured onion rings into the batter, and then drop carefully in the oil. Fry for 3 minutes in total, turning halfway through frying to ensure an even colour. Use a slotted spoon to remove from the oil, and place on a plate lined with kitchen towel to blot the excess oil. 

light and crispy in their oily bath

I cooked the onion rings in batches of 4, they cooked really evenly and smelt incredible as they cooked - it was so hard not to munch on one as soon as they'd cooked. 

Hubby got to work on the BBQ and put together a delicious beef burger in a brioche bun with cheese, bacon, gherkins and sauce to go with my onion rings- and together we had a treat meal made in heaven! 

I made a yummy lemon and pepper mayonnaise which was the absolutely perfect accompaniment to this dish - the lemon in the mayo really cuts through the oil from frying them, and the pepper is the perfect seasoning with a creamy lemon flavour, I think. 

Oooh I'm sad that I've finished them. 

My homemade beer battered onion rings, you have to try these - they are divine! 

Treat meal made in heaven! Cheese/Bacon burger, onion rings and sweetcorn. 

The perfect football-watching treat (if you can still bare to watch the World Cup) - onion rings and beer - a match made in heaven. 

Have you baked anything new this month? 

Mrs B


Saturday 28 June 2014

TOMY TFV600 Digital Video Baby Monitor *Review*

A few months ago the people from TOMY sent me a digital video baby monitor to review. Since having Bert we have been using a similar video monitor of a slightly higher price range, so I was interested to see what a slightly lower budget monitor would be like. 

I think the dawn of the video monitor is so incredible - I find it hard to imagine that I'd get the peace of mind as a parent from just a sound monitor - it is so reassuring to be able to see your little person, it makes for a much calmer Mummy and Daddy once bedtime arrives. 

Since sending it over, we have replaced our old monitor with this TOMY version, and it has been keeping an eye on Bert in his cot (among other things...more on that later!) and here is what we thought of it: 

Features and benefits:

  • Simple set up with very clear one page instructions 
This is always an important one for me - long drawn out interaction booklets in 30 languages always put me off - this one is quite simple and straight forward to understand so long as you read the one page guidance.

simple set up and usage instructions

  • Rechargable parent unit 
The best thing about the parent unit is that no batteries are required - this is a major plus point for me, as I hate having to scrabble around for batteries, which I seem to always buy but can never find when I need them.
  • One press nightlight feature on the camera - or remote option to turn it on from parent unit. 
I have found this so handy - more for myself, as Bert's cot is still in our bedroom, and I often find myself struggling to see when I come up to bed. The nightlight is so easy to activate and gives me that little bit of necessary light to get into bed myself, and not trip over anything.

nightlight in action 

  • Useful features on parent unit display.
There is obviously the real time video from the camera unit but the display also has a temperature display, volume display (when activated), signal strength and 'functions in use' panel such as nightlight. 

  • Remote controlled lullabies
These are fab - by a press of a button you can play gentle lullabies to your little one to help them settle.
  • Really impressive sound quality
The sound quality is really very good on this monitor - when Bert is in his cot asleep you can even hear the clock ticking! 
  • Talkback feature
By holding down a button on the parent unit you can talk to your baby and reassure them without having to enter the room and properly disturb them.
  • Lost Parent Unit Pager
So, we've all been there - you know you had the parent unit yesterday but now it has disappeared off the face of the earth and you want to put your little one down for a nap…no problem….use the pager function by pressing down the camera 'on' button three times, and it will sound a 60 second alarm on your parent unit so you can follow the sound to locate it. (I haven't used this function much! (LIE)
  • Sound Activation Mode
This mode is brilliant for older babies and is great for when you don't want to hear every single sound coming from your baby's room (i.e. ticking clock). In this mode the sound function is only activated when it goes over a certain volume threshold (i.e. a cry not a gurgle), so you will only hear sound when baby is being loud enough to activate it. 
  • Zoom function 
Although the camera can't be moved around remotely you can zoom into the image from the parent unit which is a handy function. 
  • Good screen size and image quality
The screen measures nearly 2.5 inches and the image quality is good enough to pick up details on your baby's clothes which impressed me. 
  • Wall mountable
Although we haven't got round to wall mounting the camera yet (as Bert is still in our bedroom and we don't want a random screw in our wall), this is a really handy feature and would mean you could work on positioning the camera in exactly the right spot to capture your little one as he/she sleeps. For now, we have been positioning the camera on my bedside table so it can see through the cot bars, which has worked okay, but having it wall mounted would have given us a much clearer shot of Bert as he sleeps. 
  • Multi-camera monitoring
You can add up to four extra cameras to your parent unit, which would be great if you wanted cameras in other rooms of the house, or a high-tech multiple angle view of your baby in one room. 

As well as using the video monitor to keep track of Bert while he sleeps in his cot we have also used it to keep an eye on our cat! She was due to have kittens last week, so we kept her in the room we wanted her to give birth in for a few days before her due date, and we popped the camera in there so we could see and hear if her labour started. 

It was pretty funny watching the cat's shenanigans! Sadly, she miscarried her kittens quite suddenly, but thankfully she is well and there's been no lasting damage done to her - we'll try for kittens again soon. 

But see...this camera definitely has some cool and funny use potential as well as its standard intention. 

Watching our cat Pickle have a nap on the spare room bed

Were there any cons?

  • The battery life on the parent unit only lasts for around 4-5 hours, we have combatted that by keeping it plugged into the mains as much as possible. But if you need to be mobile with it walking from room to room this is something to bare in mind. 

I think this camera is a really great product, the only other 'cons' I could find was when I compared it to our slightly more expensive video monitor, and for me, I would expect to get more features if I was paying more, so these aren't really proper cons:
  • Our slightly more expensive camera can be moved around remotely from the parent unit
  • Our parent unit has a clearer colour picture on the display screen.

But, apart from that there really isn't a huge difference. This monitor does exactly what you would expect it to and more. 

A really great video monitor for those wishing to spend under £100. 

Mrs B


Disclaimer: I was sent a TOMY TFV600 Digital Video Baby Monitor for the purpose of this review. All opinions and words are my own. 

Friday 27 June 2014

Summer is here and it's Salad Time with Florette

So it finally feels like the summer is properly here, and like millions of others, when the warm weather hits, I make a conscious effort to eat lighter dishes, and that means one thing…salad. 

Growing up in the 80's/90's a 'salad' used to consist of iceberg lettuce, rounds of cucumber, quartered tomatoes and if you were lucky a spring onion or two! Not hugely exciting, tasty or overly inspiring - which is no doubt why when I think of a salad these days I tend to think it's going to be pretty boring.

The people at Florette challenged me to create an exciting salad for this lovely weather, and I couldn't wait to give it a go. 

I have to feed a very hungry husband every night, and when I told him we were having a salad for dinner, he didn't look too enthused. 

So, my aim:

-a salad which is exciting
-a salad which will fill up hungry husband and,
-a salad which isn't too expensive

When it comes to choosing a salad leaf/leaves it is quite a simple choice for me - I like sweet and crispy leaves, and avoid anything peppery as I really hate rocket. When I say hate, I mean with a vengeance: I can smell it a mile off, and avoid it at all costs! 

I chose Florette's new Sweet Crispy pre-washed bag which cost me £1.00 in Tesco. It has a mixture of Little Gem, Green Romaine, Radicchio, and Green Batavia leaves.  

So now I'd decided on the base of my salad I had to decide on the bulk and key flavours. I wanted to include some meat or fish to bulk it out so I decided on a budget version of the classic 'Salad Nicoise'.

Salad Nicoise 
(serves 4)


  • 1 tin of tuna mixed with mayo, salad cream, splash of malt vinegar, s&p
  • sweet/crispy salad leaf bag, washed
  • 2 medium eggs, hard boiled
  • 100g green beans, steamed
  • 50g mange tout, steamed
  • cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 200g new potatoes, boiled and halved
  • salt and pepper croutons
  • parmesan shavings
  • finely chopped mint to garnish

The great thing about a salad like this is that you can pop in whatever is in your salad box in the fridge. You could pimp it up with a tuna steak or chicken breast if you have a bigger budget than me - the tinned tuna worked well though, and acted like a dressing once combined. 

The best thing about salad for me is it's the perfect excuse to enjoy a warm crusty roll, or thick door stop wedge of your favourite bread on the side. 

Not your standard iceberg, cucumber, tomato mix! 

Salad Nicoise - Lucy style! 

I served my salad with big wedges of lemon to squirt all over it, and my favourite low fat garlic/herb salad dressing on the side. 

It was truly delicious, and hubby was raving about it - so I think I achieved my aims...

full husband….check
pretty salad…check
more exciting than the salads from my childhood…check
and it only came in at around £2.00 per portion, so very reasonable…check!

What's your favourite salad? Do you go for a classic like Nicoise or Ceasar? Or do you like to mix it up and go for something a little different?

Let's hope that this lovely sunshine is here to stay, and we can enjoy loads more salads in the garden over the next few months. 

Mrs B


Disclaimer: I was asked by Florette to use a bag of their salad leaves to create a fun and exciting salad in exchange for some Florette goodies as a thank you.

Thursday 26 June 2014

The Rainforest Cafe *Review & Discount Voucher*

Last week I was kindly invited to review The Rainforest Cafe on Shaftsbury Avenue, London. I took along one of my mummy friends, Anwyn, and her two little girls (aged 3.5 years and 17 months), as well as Bert (10 months) for lunch - and wow, what a great time we had!

The Rainforest Cafe, Shaftsbury Avenue

Located in Piccadilly Circus, The Rainforest Cafe is a unique and vibrant restaurant and shop, bringing together the sights and sounds of the jungle. It has a collection of moving animatronics, waterfalls and tropical fish tanks, as well as floor projections, a full night sky and awesome rain/thunder storm effects running every twenty minutes or so. We were blown away by the amazing ambience inside the shop and restaurant, my friend's 3.5 year old girl was jumping around and didn't know what to look at first! 

Very excited to have arrived, and having a really good look at the menu

When you first walk in to RFC you are greeted by a rather fierce looking crocodile in a lagoon - his mouth opens and closes, and he makes really lifelike noises (I'll pretend I know what a croc sounds like in the flesh!) … The kids were mesmerised by him (if, a little frightened) … what an entrance! 

The creepy croc!

Bert with a rather sinister looking beast behind him!

Upon arrival with two pushchairs in tow we were a bit flummoxed when we realised we couldn't take pushchairs downstairs from the shop to the restaurant. It's worth baring in mind when you plan your visit that staff ask you to leave your pushchair in a store room, so you'll need to keep all your valuables on you, and carry babes-in-arms downstairs. 

Our welcome to the restaurant was a hearty one, all of the staff were incredibly friendly and showed us to our amazing table. We were seated amongst the absolutely huge Elephants who move and make realistic elephant noises every 15 minutes or so. 

Our table was positioned right next to these amazing elephants! 

We settled ourselves at the table, staff members kindly bought us over two high chairs for the smaller children, and we set about ordering drinks and having a peek at the menu. 

The older two kids chose an amazing children's cocktail which came in a brilliant palm tree cocktail cup that they got to take home! 

Within a few minutes of our drinks arriving the waiting staff bought over an activity pack for each of the children - usually the activity pack costs £3 on top of the £12.50 children's menu price - and boy, it's worth it! This is truly the best children's activity pack I've ever come across in a restaurant - it contained:

-an activity/colouring book
-a set of coloured pencils
-a frog mask
-a set of animal/rainforest themed snap cards
-a rainforest cafe wallet
- a rubber, ruler, pencil and pencil sharpener
-a Rainforest Cafe window/car sticker
-a set of stickers and a reusable sticker scene

It all comes in a little goody bag - here's a picture of the full bag (taken when I got home):

What a bargain! Plenty to amuse the kids!

It was absolutely great to see the children's reactions to all of the wonderful sights surrounding them at RFC; I especially enjoyed Bert's reaction to the first thunder/lightening storm - he tilted his head right back and just stared at the ceiling in wonderment

Look at that face! "How can there be a storm inside Mummy?"

Unfortunately, the youngest two did get a little overwhelmed at times by all the noise - especially from the elephants as they were pretty big and loud. In all fairness, the staff did offer to move us to a quieter table, but we were settled and thought the kids would soon get used to the elephants as they 'go off' regularly. With hindsight, a quieter table round by the fish tanks may well be better for anyone in a party with smaller children, so that's worth baring in mind when you book your own table.

Bar a few wobbles, the kids really did enjoy it - if you have a child with any form of interest in animals then this is absolutely the place to bring them.

The Kids Menu

With the kids amused with their goody bags, and now fully settled in to our table, we set to work helping them choose from the menu. While we were reading the menu to them we were treated to a visit from Cha Cha the Frog…

Cha Cha came to say hello, Bert just kept staring at him, then had a little wobble, bless! 

Then once we'd waved goodbye to Cha Cha we made our choices, and waited for our food to arrive.

For a set price of £12.50 (£15.50 including an activity pack) you can choose two courses for children from a great selection of mains and desserts. Our children selected:

The children's portions were ample, which is always a pleasant surprise - so often children's portions can be too small and leave them feeling hungry and grouchy. There was no chance of this at Rainforest Cafe. The food came really quickly (the staff bought out the children's main courses with the adult starters), which was good thinking - it gave the kids plenty of time to eat their mains, and we didn't encounter any hungry tantrums because we were eating before they did.

This empty plate is testament to how yummy the children found their food! 

It was so lovely for me to give Bert his first taste of garlicky mashed potato, and jelly in such awesome surroundings - he absolutely devoured his dinner and dessert, and still managed to keep looking around at everything while he ate!

The Adult Menu

My friend Anwyn has been recently diagnosed with Coeliac disease and so cannot eat any gluten in her diet - we informed the restaurant at the time of booking of her dietary issues, and reminded them on arrival that we would need her meals to be safely free of gluten. The Rainforest Cafe have great allergy information on their menu - each meal clearly states whether it is suitable for anyone with nut, egg, dairy and gluten allergies, so this was really helpful for us. 

There is a wide choice of dishes for people without dietary restraints, but for my friend Anwyn, who is getting used to the limited choices her special diet causes, there was no choice for starter, four choices for main and one dessert available to her on the menu. It is worth noting to any restaurateurs out there that at least a choice (between two meals) is preferable for anyone with an allergy - no one likes to have their choices made for them - so it would have been good to have an extra starter and dessert available which didn't contain gluten. 

However, it has to be said that the meals Anwyn had for her starter and main were very tasty, and it did make her order things that she would't ordinarily have chosen before her recent diagnosis - so that was cool. 

Anwyn ordered:

For Anwyn's dessert she didn't fancy the only gluten free option on the menu (which was just vanilla, strawberry or chocolate ice cream) so instead asked if they would be able to prepare her a Knickerbocker Glory without any gluten, which they insisted they could do no problem. 

The puddings arrived and Anwyn happily began to tuck into her dessert, before realising that the kitchen had forgotten to take off the wafer, which unfortunately contains gluten. She stopped eating as soon as she realised (she hadn't bitten into it, but just it touching the ice cream could have been enough to contaminate someone with Coeliac with gluten), the staff were extremely apologetic, and ensured they had told the kitchen how vital it is they pay attention to even the smallest detail when it comes to dietary requirements. 

It was a shame, as all other aspects of the meal were truly lovely. Thankfully, Anwyn didn't get ill, maybe due to the fact that she has only recently learned of her condition and started her gluten free diet. Still, it doesn't excuse it, and it could have made somebody very poorly. I'm reassured that the staff at RFC took this matter very seriously, and I feel confident it won't happen again. 

Knickerbocker Glory with offending wafer - it looked truly delicious though! Damn you gluten! 

I ordered:

My meals were SO delicious - I can't tell you how pleasantly surprised I was. The veggie wrap was so fresh and had exactly the right balance of richness from the goats cheese, zing from the salsa, and creaminess from the homemade coleslaw. The slaw was particularly great, as I have a real bug bear about horrible 'plastic-tasting' mass produced coleslaw you so often get in restaurants. No fear here, this was the real deal and just as good (if not better) than a slaw I could make at home. 

The meat on the lamb shank literally fell of the bone and was so tender, the gravy had a deep meaty taste and flowery edge from a hit of rosemary, the veggies were cooked perfectly al dente for me, and it took a lot of restraint to not lick the plate! 

What a treat dessert was - having been calorie counting for long now, it felt brilliant to have a major blow out and gorge on something so sweet and heavenly. The waffles were smothered with ice cream and chocolate sauce, and by the end I felt as if I needed a forklift truck to carry me out - good job well done RFC! 

After Lunch:

Once we had finished eating, and while we were waiting for our coffees and babychinos to arrive, we decided to explore the rest of the restaurant, there is just so much to see! 

Here is a snapshot of my favourite parts:

My favourite part was the night sky and sound effects - I found it really calming and peaceful 

The Cheetah was so lifelike and moved its head every so often - in true rainforest style he is quite well hidden overhead, and the table of people eating underneath him hadn't even noticed he was there until we pointed him out! 

What a beast! 

There was so much to look at I could have taken photos all day - I was particularly impressed with the attention to detail when it came to making the surroundings look and feel real - even I was amazed by the actual rainfall over the bar! 


Our bill would have come to around £150 if we'd have been paying for it, which granted, is quite pricey. What I will say is that for me, RFC is definitely a special occasion location, and it is offering an experience which isn't available anywhere else in London. It's on par price wise with other similar central-London based restaurants, and most importantly the food is really good: I don't mind paying higher prices as long as the quality of the food matches its price tag, and at RFC I thought it really did. 

15% Off Discount Voucher

Luckily for you, my lovely readers, the wonderful people over at RFC have given me an exclusive 15% off final food bill voucher for any of my lovely readers to download, print and use at their restaurant. So, you can enjoy its scrumptious food and gloriously wild atmosphere for a fraction of the cost! 

I'd love to hear all about your experiences when you go along, so do get in touch if you use the voucher, and enjoy! 


To sum up, I was really impressed with RFC: and would definitely recommend it for a special occasion. I think that probably, our children were a little too young to fully appreciate everything it had to offer, and older children (say aged 4-11) would be the optimum age to truly be blown away by its magic without being nervous or scared. Although the prices are quite high, you get an awful lot for your money - the kids were so chuffed with their activity packs and awesome cups, that they didn't even badger us in the shop to spend more money. 

I will definitely be returning, next time with my husband, who is desperate to come along but unfortunately had to work on the day and so missed joining us for this fun adventure.

Saying Goodbye

After such a wonderful day out, Bert was sad to leave his friends when we got back to Bedford, and I just love this photo so much of Bert saying goodbye to his special friend that I had to share it with you...

Look at the love in his eyes! 

Bye for now

Mrs B


Disclaimer: We were treated to our meal, drinks, and the children's cups and goody bags for the purpose of this review, however - all words, pictures and opinions are my own. 

Please click below to download and print your voucher.

Make sure you read all the small print on the voucher before use. 

Valid until 14.11.14.