27 May 2015

Recipe - Egg Custard Tarts

It's been so long since I've done any baking - I've been making efforts to eat a little healthier and find that having a fresh batch of brownies around or a massive cake that needs eating in the kitchen really doesn't help. What can I say, will power is not a strong point of mine! 

Recipe - custard tart

But little miss loves to bake and I do like to oblige where possible. I left her to take care of the pastry as she's really good at that rubbing-the-butter-and-flour-together bit that I hate, while I concocted the filling for our egg custard tarts! Here's how we made them: 

how to make pastry

Ingredients

Pastry:
225g Plain Flour
50g Icing Sugar
Pinch of Salt
125g Butter
1 Large Egg

Filling:
250ml Whole Milk
250ml Double Cream
2 Large Eggs
2 Large Egg Yolks
75g Caster Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
Freshly Ground Nutmeg

making tarts

Like I said, I left little miss in charge of the pastry. Just pop your dry ingredients in a bowl with the butter and rub together until it looks like breadcrumbs. Or, if you are fancy, pop them all in your food processor and blitz, you don't even have to get your hands messy! Add the egg in and mix until it all sticks together and you can make it into a ball that can be wrapped in cling film and left in the fridge while you do the next bit! 

eggs recipe

To make the filling, whisk up the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla essence until creamy. Heat up the milk and cream in a pan and bring to the boil. Pour the hot milky stuff over the eggs and stir well. Pour the whole lot through a fine mesh sieve just to get rid of all the gooey egg bits, and set aside while we turn our attention back to the pastry. 

simple home baking classics

Roll out to around 2mm thick and cut into rounds to line a muffin tin. Ours didn't quite line up right (we were baking at my dads with limited access to cutters etc!) but they were close enough! Fill these with baking beads (or, in our case, dried chickpeas) over baking parchment and blind bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beads and bake for a further five, until the the bases are dry and the pastry golden. 

making tarts

Once your part-baked cases are ready, fill with the custard and sprinkle with a little grated nutmeg (ours was ground nutmeg, but close enough - I feel like I've said that a lot throughout this post!) and pop them back in the oven. 15-20 minutes should do it, until the custard is firm with a bit of a wobble. 

custard tarts

These are supposedly best served chilled but I'm impatient and ate mine still warm out of the oven!

custard tarts easy

I stole the recipe from the British Lion Eggs website, where they more egg based recipes than you can shake a stick at! I don't eat a lot of eggs, for me they are mainly a baking ingredient so the dessert section is right up my street but my egg-munching brother has been eyeing up the scrambled egg recipes to add a little variety to his favourite breakfast meal! 

* I was compensated for this post, and not just by getting to eat delicious tarts! 

26 May 2015

Degustabox May 2015

It's not just me that looks forward to the arrival of the Degustabox delivery - everyone in the office gets excited when they see that box turn up and come crowding round to see what's inside. It's a mini live unboxing and a lovely distraction from work for a few minutes at least! 

Food Subscription Boxes

May's Degustabox arrived a little early, to be all ready for the bank holiday weekend - and with the bank holiday in mind it also has a vague barbecue theme. We didn't actually barbecue this weekend but I've been trying out as much as possible from the box anyway!

Here's what I got inside:

food box review

Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Barbecue Sauce - I've just realised I had the perfect opportunity to try this at the weekend when I cooked burgers for my visiting niece and nephew, and it didn't occur to me at all 'til just now - gutted! I'll definitely break this sweet sounding sauce out next time though!

Schwartz Grill Masters Marinade in a Bag - We were all very intrigued by this when I pulled it out of the box! It's essentially a marinade in a resealable big - open it up, pop your meat in, reseal, leave for the appropriate amount of time then cook your tasty dinner to perfection! Sounds easy (my favourite kind of cooking!) and good! My marinade is a lovely sounding Honey and Soy, but this comes in five other varieties too - I have my eye on the Korean BBQ!

Marinade bag schwartz

Maggi So Stir Fry - This was Saturday night's tea. I followed the recipe on the Oriental 3 Spice Chicken Noodle packet (easy, just fry up some chicken, peppers and onion - add the included seasoning sachet, some water and the dry noodles, cook 'til the noodles soften up and serve!) and we all really enjoyed it so I'm looking forward to trying the other one! 

tasty noodles

9 Bar Fruity - A box with four of these snack bars packed with seeds and dried fruit, topped with carab. These are undoubtedly a healthy snack with loads of tip top ingredients - it's just a shame I didn't particularly like the taste! Ah well, I'm sure they'll come in handy still!

healthy snack ideas

Daelmans Stroopwafels - This to me was the most exciting thing in the box by far. I developed a pretty strong obsession with these when I first discovered them in Amsterdam a few years ago, and was sad when the huge stash I brought home with me ran out! This is the first time I've seen them since and I'm overjoyed that they are back in my life! It's essentially a caramel filled cinnamony biscuit type thing, and of you warm them over a hot drink they go all gooey and even more delicious! 

tasty caramel biscuits

Sarson's Balsamiv Vinegar - I know balsamic vinegar is useful as an ingredient in all sorts, but I'm really not that keen on it. So it worked out quite well that when I first pulled it out of the box my brother commented on how nice it looked. the product has been moved to a new home where it will be well used and well loved! 

degustabox food subcription contents

Slim Pasta Lasagne - I'll admit, I haven't quite worked out what this is. But I love pasta and if this will do the same thing but healthier then it could be a winner! Lasagne used to be one of my go-to dishes and I've not made it in ages - I might have to give it a go soon just so I can figure this product out! 

healthy meal alternatives

Fentimans Ginger Beer - Mmmm I love Fentimans! All their gorgeous vintage soft drinks are as tasty as they are attractive, and I think this would be the perfect thing for a nice summer picnic! 

Kid's Coco Juice - On the other hand I don't seem to have really fallen in love with coconut based drinks the way that many have so for once I might give the kids drink to the kids! 

kids coco juice with banana

Fuel Protibricks - Like a protein-enhanced Weetabix! I have been trying to up my protein intake so I'll definitely try these out - the only problem is that it'll be hard to shake my associations of Weetabix being something I only eat when I've had dental work done! 

protibrick fuel breakfast

Generally I prefer my boxes to have a little more in the way of sweet treats but I love the Stroopwafels enough to make up for not having more of the sugary snacks! So overall, another great box! 

If you fancy trying one of these out for yourself you can get a £3 discount off the usual price of £12.99 by entering the code AMQWL at the checkout! It's a great way of discovering new foodie products and you may discover lost favourites as well as discovering new ones! 

25 May 2015

Holiday Planning and Panicking

I should be spending this bank holiday weekend packing for my upcoming holiday,... but there's one teeny problem. Due to an unforseen passport issue (the issue being we have no idea where one of the necessary passports is) - I don't actually know where I will be spending my upcoming week off. 

While I hope I'll be spending it sunning myself by the pool in some exotic location, there's a very good chance I'll hanging out in a grey and chilly Yorkshire. 

With that in mind I've spent the last couple of days keeping an eye out for things to suit both scenarios! I hope that my holiday packing will look a lot more like this top picture:

amazing summer sandals floral vintage swimsuit

A great deal of thought has gone into my swimwear options - I don't really 'do' bikini's but love this pretty vintage style floral swimsuit from House of Fraser. It has a secret tummy control lining as well as distracting rouching over the stomach area for a flattering bonus too! 

The Miss L Fire sandals are amazing! They do some amazing lobster ones too, but it's these lovely birdies I hope will be adorning my feet this trip! 

And finally, I hope to need some new sunglasses for all the poolside reading I hope to do! This pretty pastel pair from Topshop would do the trick! 

Of course, there's every possibility my holiday packing will look more like this:

green joules jacket cath kidson cloudy umbrella

If I'm going to be stuck at home, I can think of worse ways of keeping warm and dry than in this waterproof jacket from Joules. The only problem is this lovely thing comes in four gorgeous colours and I can't decide which one I like best - though this green one is definitely in the running!

And if I have to protect my head from cold winds instead of baking sun, this knitted hat from Joy is a cute way of doing so!

This beautiful cloudy umbrella from Cath Kidston would almost be worth staying home for. I don't think you could ever be too upset about rain when you can carry round your own blue skies! 

I say it would almost be worth staying home for, but of course the number one thing on my wishlist is for that missing passport to turn up! I suppose I better get looking instead sitting here doing online window shopping! Wish me luck!

* Contains sponsored link

22 May 2015

(Almost) Brunch at Nation Of Shopkeepers, Leeds

It's not that I've never been to Nation of Shopkeepers in Leeds before, more that the place is so closely tied in my mind to the annual Leeds International Film Festival (it's close vicinity to the main venues makes it an obvious place between-film sustenance) that I almost forget that it's open the rest of the year. And even f I'd managed that, I'm pretty sure I'd have never thought of it as a) a place for brunch, and b) somewhere I could take the kids. So it was doubly exciting when I was invited to pop along with the kids and try the new brunch menu!

Nation Of Shopkeepers Review

Of course, things don't always go to plan and sadly a delivery mix up meant not all of the brunch options were actually available at the time of out visit - oops! Always one to make the most of any situation involving food, I shifted my attention to the main menu instead and ordered the Southern Fried Chicken Burger with Blue Cheese Sauce. Oh my god. I've never actually had the chicken here despite hearing from many a source that it's top notch (usually a beefier burger for me!),  but it'll be hard for me to go back from this. The chicken was incredible, perfectly cooked and coated in spicy, ever-so-crunchy, Southern Fried batter. This chickeny taste-sensation was served with fresh crispy salad, creamy blue cheese sauce and a massive portion of fries (I had to share, and I never share!)

Leeds Burgers Nation Of Shopkeepers

The other half had also set his mind to the fried bird, and ordered a portion of Hot and Kickin' Fried Chicken. He had none of my problems with the amount of fries and quickly devoured his dish with only occasional murmers of satisfaction breaking his silence! This was served with a great hot sauce, some of which I managed to steal away to dip my chips into! As a chicken connoisseur, he gave this a very firm two thumbs up.

Best Fried Chicken Leeds

Despite the days limitations on Brunch options, the kids still managed to find dishes for them from the available options. Little Madam has a great passion for sausage sandwiches (this is often her answer to the question 'what do you want for tea?') so this was the obvious choice for her. I was impressed to see two sandwiches (if only because I thought I might get to try some - no such luck!) The little one didn't quite finish all of hers but I'm sure any hungry adult would be equal to the task!

Nation Of Shopkeepers Leeds Brunch

The other one fancied 'Cheeky' beans on toast - BBQ beans on sourdough toast. I really should have moved some of the greenery before taking pictures so you could see it better, but by the time I thought of that he'd eaten half of it - sorry! He pulled a bit of a face when it arrived because it didn't look like the beans on toast he'd pictured in his head - but a forkful or two in and he was completely convinced!

Brunch Leeds Shopkeepers

So basically, all the food - lunch and brunch options alike - went down a treat. The staff were equally brilliant, and getting there early meant it was quieter than I've seen it before, giving us choice of comfy sofas and a relaxed eating experience.  

Cool Bars Leeds

Hopefully any issues with brunch ingredient deliveries should be resolved now, and you can find a full list of their brunch options here! I'm looking forward to a return visit to explore them a bit more fully, as well as trying some of the amazing sounding desserts on the main menu!

21 May 2015

My Little Provence Box

I was so glad when My Little Provence Box showed up this morning, as I know a few folk get theirs last week so I was panicking a bit about it's whereabouts! I'm very pleased to have my hands on this one, it's a good 'un!

French Lifestyle Subscription Box

I've said before these are my favourite subscription boxes - their cheerful branding and surprise mix of beauty and lifestyle products brings joy to my heart! I'm really glad I managed to avoid any box spoilers while I was waiting for my box to arrive, as I love the treat of looking through to discover the lovely contents!

Provence Box Accessories

One of the stars of this months box is this DIY embroidery cuff. I'm looking forward to decorating mine ready to wear on my hols this year!

Dress up doll magnets
The My Little Doll magnets are impossibly sweet. I used to love those paper dress up dolls when I was little, and this is the same concept, but easier to stick on the fridge! I know my little lady in particular will have lots of fun with these!
French cosmetic samples

Beauty-wise I was hoping for, even expecting, a small addition or two from L'Occitane En Provence - I mean it just makes sense, right? - and I was not disappointed! Not just one little sample, but four separate products!
The Verbena Body Lotion, Verbena Leaf Soap and Mer & Minstral Shower Gel are all welcome additions to my sample collection, and my favourite of the bunch, the Rose hand cream will be unlikely to make it that far as it's staying firmly by my side until it runs out. The L'Occitane hand creams (well, all of their products that I've tried, to be fair) are amazing and I'm crazy about anything rose scented - the only way this could be better would be if it were bigger!

French provence box beauty products

As well as the L'Occitane products, I also got an amazing eyeshadow crayon from the My Little Beauty, the sub brand of My Little Box. 'Amazing' was their word for it, but one I entirely agree with - it's the most gorgeous metallic brown shade which is impressive enough in itself but I swatched this on my hand as soon as I opened it this morning and now, seven hours or so later, it's not budged at all. And I've tried - I've rubbed at it, washed it, and it's stayed solid and true. I hate ending a night to find my eye make up anywhere other than where I left it, so this could be the answer to shiny-eyed dreams (as long as it will come off with make up remover that is, if it just stays put forever I might get bored of it eventually!)


You can get your paws on one of these luscious goody boxes by subscribing here, at £11 + P&P per month!


19 May 2015

Trek Protein Flapjack Bars

You may know by now, I'm not the most organised. I remember mentioning when I wrote about the Exante Diet products that I rarely manage to bring anything sensible for lunch into the office and tend to scrabble on by whatever I can find around the workplace.

Protein Flapjack Review

For the last couple of weeks, my lunchtime foraging has been more productive and balanced,... healthy, even,... due to the arrival of this box of Trek Protein Flapjack Bars.

These are exactly the kind of thing that I want for my work-secret--food-stash - tasty, not too bad for me, easy to eat and goes a treat with a cup of tea! 

Trek Bars

This box of goodies from Natural Balance Foods carries a mixture of six different flavours of scrummy flapjack:

Original Oat - the first one I tried, as I figured if you can get the basics right the rest will follow! It's obviously not as good as the flapjack I make at home but I don't think mine can be considered anywhere close to healthy! For a less treacle-filled option this is really good! 

Cocoa Coconut - This one surprised me by being my favourite of the bunch! It tasted a bit like an oaty Bounty - the flavours worked together beautifully and  this had a particularly moist chewy texture - yum! 

Oat Raisin - I'll admit to being a bit fussy about raisins and will confess that I picked a lot of mine out, but the actual remaining flapjack has delicious cinnamon and nutmeg to give this an extra flavour boost! 

gluten free flapjack

Cocoa Oat - Despite loving chocolate I'm not usually a fan of chocolate flavoured things (things like chocolate ice cream or mikshakes are usually a no from me) so wasn't expecting to be hugely keen on this. While not my favourite one of the bunch it was much nicer that I'd expected, the dark chocolate flavoured coating complimenting the flapjack nicely.

Banana Bread - This one came at a good time for me as I seem to be enjoying a bit of a banana renaissance. Big chunks of dried fruit usually bother me (hence me picking all the raisins out of the other bar!) but the banana lumps in this seemed to work! 

Morning Berry - Here's one I'd expected to find big bits of fruit in but somehow the bar had managed to avoid these while still retain a very berry flavour throughout - perfect for me! 

Healthy snacks

I'd mentioned that these flapjacks have aspirations of healthiness.... I'm far from a nutrition expert and I'm sure these aren't perfect for you or anything but there's a lot of good stuff to consider here. Firstly, as the name 'protein flapjacks' might suggest, these are high in protein! Each bar contains 9 or 10 grams, keeping you full for longer (great when this is what I'm relying on to get me through 'til tea-time!). As well as that, they're all gluten and wheat free, and the ones without the chocolate coating (that's just the cocoa coconut and cocoa oat) are dairy free too, making them a risk-free snack for anyone with allergies or intolerances to these! Mainly though, they taste really good! 

So good I've had to hide them away from the rest of the people in the office who seem to have decided it's a 'sharing box'! 

I'll definitely be having a look at the other bar offerings from Trek too - gotta keep my office stash stocked up!

*Sent free of charge in return for honest review!

16 May 2015

Quiz Night at the Botanist

I don't think I've actually taken part in a pub quiz since I last worked at a pub that did them, and that was a LOT of years ago. It's a shame really, as it's the sort of thing that's right up my street - drinking with friends while pretending to be really smart. So when I was invited along to take part in Quiz Night at The Botanist I was more than a little excited!

Fun quiz nights in leeds

I popped along last Sunday with teammates Sammie, Hayley and Gabby to prove our superior knowledge (ok that didn't work out quite as planned but that's not the point!) I'd heard great things about the quiz at The Botanist, and it sure did seem very popular! The place was packed out with very well organised and enthusiastic teams for whom this is clearly a regular event! 

blogger events botanist leeds

As well as our quiz sheets, we were provided with a range of drinks and nibbles, to keep us feeling fresh and motivated for our intellectual exercise! Great news for me as I have a great love for the amazing cocktail range at The Botanist, as well as their lovely food! 

big wave beer with cocktail chaser

One of the new additions to the drinks menu is the 'Brewers and Botanists' range - a meeting of the finest botanical-inspired cocktails and best beers. Above is the 'Number Three' - dried pink rose buds, rose syrup, pineapple and lime juices, Amaretto Disaranno, and Southern Comfort, served with a bottle of Kona Big Wave. 

brewers and botanists no 2

Three looked beautiful, and seemed to go down a treat with my teammates, but I'd gone for the 'Number Two' instead - Micro red amaranthe, Havana Club 3 year old rum, almond syrup and lime juices served with a can of Paulaner Hefeweisse. Before this, I would have definitely thought that ordering a cocktail and beer at the same time would be just asking for trouble, but this seemed remarkably civilized as well as decidedly tasty!

well presented food wheelbarrow and plantpot

The presentation of the food at The Botanist is a constant source of delight. The Pate in a plant pot with it's wheelbarrow chutney accompaniment is just beautiful to behold. The mini wheelbarrow actually works too - joy!


nibbles at the botanist olives

Sadly, pate isn't really my thing, and nor are the olives we were provided with too, so I just appreciated their aesthetic value while tucking into the Cumberland and pork chipolatas with honey grain mustard, yum! 

botanist leeds nibbles

My favourite though is the baked Camembert, with fruit and flatbed. I know the world offers many different and varied culinary experiences, with a great deal of tasty and exciting options available at the Botanist alone, but at the end of the day good bread and cheese takes a whole lot of beating! Having a great range of nibbley dishes between us all makes it seem like a more friendly, communal eating experience than if each of us had our own plated dishes too, so this selection perfectly matched the 'coming together as a team' vibe that's so valuable to the quiz experience!

food at the botanist

Speaking of the quiz experience, once we'd eaten it was about time to get started, The quiz was heavily music based, and the use of a live piano really added to the atmosphere. As well as having standard quiz questions, other round included a rather embarrassing sing-along, a beer-tasting round, and pipe cleaner creations amongst others.

the botanist pub quiz activities

I was quite pleased with my little giraffe but sadly he didn't win us any points!

pub quiz challenge leeds

Though I don't think we did too badly as a team, we definitely didn't come close to winning either. But hopefully we now know which of our weaknesses to work on for next time, so we'll be ready for them! I also got to drown my disappointment in our score with another treat from the cocktail menu. 

Out of all the wonderful things I got to taste on the evening, this is the one I'm most desperate to get back for again! The Chocolate Rose is a heavenly combination of Green Mark vodka, rose liqueur, liquid chocolate, milk and cream. Like a boozy Turkish Delight milkshake, I could happily drink a lot of these!

delicious creamy cocktail

The quiz was in aid of the Forget Me Not Children's Hospice in West Yorkshire - I'm pleased to say that £300 was raised for this worthy cause on the evening as part of The Botanist's ongoing fund raising efforts. Great work to all involved! 

Also a massive thanks to the Botanist for having us along, and to my team mates for their knowledge and lovliness!

12 May 2015

6Teas - Bottled tea from Yorkshire

Goodness, I'm a bad 'un - just found these pics and a bunch of notes in a 'draft post' from months ago, eeek! I do remember these blends from Yorkshire tea company 6teas pretty distinctly though, so should be able to put together some tea based thoughts for you!

For a start, I'm sure you can see one distinctive difference between these and the other teas I've reviewed here! No bags or dry leaves from this lot,  but instead these handsome bottles of liquid concentrated tea. Pour a little in your cup, top with hot water and jobs a good 'un! Like a hot squash, but tea-ier.
  
Yorkshire blended liquid tea

The immediate benefit I saw in this is that when I'm at work, there's three people who work for the company who can make a proper cup of tea. That's three people who don't look panicked when I point to one of the many bags of loose leaf tea we have kicking around. That means a lot of people who can't make a proper cup of tea. Many of those can just about muster a decentish brew from a teabag, but not all. But with this, how could they go wrong? It's simplicity itself, so surely I'm more or less guaranteed a good cup tea, right?

just add water tea

I was easily convinced to take three bottles home with me when I came across these on a market stall a few months back, so took them straight into work to try out. The first one I wanted to try was the Russian Earl Grey. I loved this tea, the blending of the clean, crisp Earl Grey and the deep smoky flavour of the Russian Caravan was a delight.

yorkshire bottled tea
My second choice was the Rooibos and Vanilla. Rooibos is my favourite mid-afternoon tea, as well as being a great back up for when we've run out of milk! (Though there's lots of teas I will happily drink without milk, and you can have milk in this - there's just really no need!) This one, with the added vanilla, is so creamy and delicious it feels like a real indulgent treat.

6 teas bottled tea

The Big Daddy House Blend - a blend of Assam and 2nd flush Darjeeling - is slightly less distinctive in flavour compared to the other two, but no less delicious for it. This really is a 'big daddy' of a tea!

blended in yorkshire tea in a bottle

Not only were these all really tasty and drinkable teas, they really were as easy to make as I'd hoped.... no worrying about brewing times and correct temperatures and everything else. The bottles have markers telling you how much to pour out for each brew so I really can't imagine anyone getting this other than spot-on.

Each bottle will do six cups, and you can get three bottles for £15 on the website (so 18 teas), which means it certainly doesn't work out as cheap as buying a box of PG tips. But the depth of flavour and freshness means this can demand that premium price tag! Plus you can get 20% off your first order on the website with the code 'lovetea', a great excuse to try it! As well as finding these teas online you can stumble across them at a number of markets and events across the Yorkshire region, a list of which you can find on the website.