Autumnal Soup with Cully & Sully

To me, there is nothing more autumnal than a big bowl of soup with a large crusty roll on the side. Being off on maternity leave during the autumn season, I had visions of me making home made soups by the gallon – my kitchen sides ladened with root vegetables, pumpkins and winter squash (all bought from our local organic shop of course!) however it turns out maternity leave isn’t quite like that! Once the 4th load of laundry is done for the day, I’ve got myself up and dressed, the baby dressed (numerous times) and the dog walked – I’m left feeling like I need a slightly easier option by lunchtime. I recently discovered a lovely brand of soup called Cully & Sully, who offer a comforting soup with that tasty homemade flavour but with the ease of a quick pop to the shop and a zap in the microwave. I also love that as a vegetarian, they have lots of flavours to chose from too so my choices aren’t too limited either.

We have got into a little routine of late, we go out for a morning walk to get some fresh air, sometimes we take the dog, sometimes we go to the park or kick the Autumn leaves, but our trips out always involve a trip to the village bakery for fresh bread on the way home, that smell just draws me in from a mile off. They produce loads of different types of bread, all baked on site so I’ve been trying them all (why not!) I just love experimenting with different flavours, working out which soup works with different breads, to complement and bring out each individual flavour.

Usually, I just go by which local bread is available on the day as I visit a small village bakery, but here are some suggestions of Cully & Sully soup flavours and bread pairings that I’ve tried that work really well….. 

  • Vegetable Soup – serve with a thick slice of Brown Crusty Loaf slathered in butter for a classic, homely and comforting dish.
  • Pea and Mint – serve with Sourdough. The slight sourness creates a great contrast to the sweetness of the peas, it’s the best combination!
  • Potato and Leek – best served with stilton croutons, adds a rich burst of flavour with a crunch
  • White Winter Vegetable –  serve with warm garlic bread for the ultimate comfort food.
  • Tomato and Basil  – The lightest of the soups, deserves a lighter bread – serve with focaccia for the perfect pairing.

Just writing this has made me hungry for my lunch already, so I think I know what I’ll be having! My absolute favourite is the Pea and Mint with Sourdough, so I hope the bakery has some in stock!

Cully & Sully soups are available in Tesco stores across the UK – give them a go 🙂

Kenwood kMix Stand Mixer with AO

It looks like Christmas has come early in our household (and on the blog, this is my second Christmas post and it’s only the beginning of Nov!) I opened the door last week to find the postman standing there with a rather large, rather heavy box for me, of which even he, a big burly postman struggled to lift. We both pushed and pulled the box through my door together with confused expressions on our faces as to what it could be. Opening the packaging I saw a gleaming bright white Kenwood kMix Stand Mixer and yes, I can definitely confirm – it’s amazingly heavy, but what a surprise to wake up to on a chilly and grey Thursday morning!

So, you might be wondering where this amazing surprise parcel came from? Well, a few weeks back I chatted with the lovely people at AO.com, who had organised a Secret Santa project for bloggers in the run-up to Christmas. Our challenge was to pick each other a gift from the top ten most popular products predicted this Christmas and surprise each other with an early present!

So, I paired up with one of my fabulous blogger friends, Lauren (who writes Scrapbook Blog) to chose each other a gift to receive. It was so difficult to chose, although I had a pretty good idea on what Lauren would like as we’ve known each other a good few years now!

After a few days of excitedly texting each other every morning saying ‘Any news?’ Lauren told me that a parcel had arrived for her! She couldn’t believe her luck as I managed to guess her dream product from the list (plus, I was quite relieved that I’d chosen well too!) Head over to her blog to find out what I chose for her!

However, a few more days passed for me and there was no sign of my AO delivery – what a tease! My day soon came though and let’s just say…. she was worth the wait.

Now, I have a tiny confession to make at this point. As much as Lauren had my gift choice spot on – I had always wanted a stand mixer, there was a slight spanner in the works here in that I don’t actually know how to bake! So as fabulous as this gift was, I did feel very out of my comfort zone giving it a go. However, I have been saying for years that I’m going to teach myself how to bake, so I’m taking this as a sign that it’s my time to learn and a new and exciting hobby is about to begin.

I really couldn’t have asked for a better product to give me a head start as a new baker either, could I? Plus, the Kenwood kMix Stand Mixer looks absolutely stunning on our kitchen worktop too! Also, let’s face it, if it’s good enough for the contestants on The Great British Bake Off – it’s good enough for me.

Opening the box, included within the kit was:

  • kMix Stand Mixer in Cool White
  • Beater
  • Dough Tool
  • Whisk
  • Spatula

There is everything you need to get going and make your first cake! Luckily, V is a dab hand in the kitchen so that evening (we were too excited to wait!) we made our first cake using her Grannies traditional recipe, which I have to say turned out a treat and I felt on a roll with baking already! I could get used to this…. (and maybe so will my waistline)

The Kenwood kMix does everything you want it to and more when it comes to baking – the incredible 1000W output means it’s one powerful beast that whips your ingredients into shape in no time at all – with the beater perfect for creating light and fluffy cakes, the whisk allowing you to create delicate buttercream and more for your creations. I haven’t yet made bread but the dough hook looks like a handy tool to save all that effort with kneading too.

The kMix also has multi-speed functionality, which is really handy to have total control over your recipe and also to avoid covering the kitchen in cake batter (luckily a tip I was told BEFORE using my mixer was to start off slow!). The kMix does come with a splash-guard though too, so don’t worry too much about any mess.

One of the best features of the kMix is the large, glass mixing bowl – fully transparent, so there is no need to peek over the top at your mixture, you’ll have a full view during the whole process of creating your cake.

The kMix just feels powerful, luxurious and a breeze to use. The attention to detail is just second to none, plus it’s good to know it’s a trusted British brand we all know and love too.

Feeling more confident, a few days later I decided to put the kMix to the test and make a chocolate cake, by myself. I was all alone in the house too, so it was just me against the mixture, with google as my only best friend….

It turned out AMAZINGLY! The Kenwood kMix Stand Mixer made things SO simple, the recipe I followed just stated to pop all the ingredients into the mixture and blend, so the kMix did the hard work and I just watched it all come together. I then went on to make a chocolate buttercream icing too as I felt so inspired by my first two bakes. If I do say so myself, the cake was delicious, something I didn’t think I’d be making for a long time of teaching myself to bake. I’m so inspired, I can’t wait to get making treats aplenty in the run up to Christmas!

So, if you love the sound of the kMix and want to add one to your Christmas list (do!) then take a look at AO’s website here, where you can find the Kenwood kMix Stand Mixer for £399, plus – if you wait patiently for Black Friday (24th Nov!) you might be able snap up a bargain too!

Don’t forget to check out Lauren’s post and find out all about the Secret Santa present I chose for her too.

Big thanks to AO for having me for their Blogger Secret Santa Challenge – I’ll pop you a slice of cake in the post! 

The Perfect Christmas Hamper

For me, a festive hamper encapsulates Christmas spirit perfectly – festive food and treats, handmade gifts and a personal touch make a hamper ideal present for your family and friends this year. A homemade hamper is one of the most thoughtful, generous gifts you can give as you can tailor it to your friends tastes and dietary requirements, without it costing too much either!

So, when Ryvita got in touch to ask me to create a special festive hamper for a friend including their delicious Ryvita Thins, I couldn’t wait to get to get started, thinking of all the gorgeous festive treats to put together. Also, following on my on my quest to teach myself to cook this year, this was the perfect opportunity to cook my first ever chutney – something I’d never attempted before and quite honestly, could possibly have been quite a festive disaster! (See below for how I got on…..)

When putting together a hamper, my advice is to think of two things – firstly, luxury treats you wouldn’t eat every day and food that is ideal for sharing. You want the recipient to feel spoiled and surprised by the treats inside and be able to share the contents with family and friends over Christmas time too.

I started putting my hamper together by adding my Ryvita Thin’s – these are quite different from the classic ryvita we know and love, with five different flavours they are a fab party snack and the perfect ‘implement‘ for dipping in your homemade festive chutnies. I bought some for myself (well, I had to do a trial run of the chutney!) and they are SO moreish, once I had one I literally couldn’t stop. Before I knew it, I’d watched a Christmas movie and managed to eat nearly a whole box, oops!

Other treats to include were things to share on Christmas Day – Luxury Juices, Spirits or Wine, Festive Hot Chocolate, Fruit and Nut Mix, Truffles and of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a traditional Christmas Pudding. I bought few of my treats from M&S this year – their products are just classic at Christmas time, they never dissapoint! I especially loved their Sparkling Peach and Proscecco Conserve! How amazing would that be as breakfast on Christmas Morning?

I also created some cute handmade crackers, these are packed with cute little surprises, jokes and of course a gold shimmery crown for Christmas Day too.

So, going back to my Chutney… Well, I’m so pleased to say my recipe and first attempts at cooking a chutney went really well! I decided to make a Caramelised Onion Chutney, inspired by the Caramelised Onion Ryvita Thin’s – having a dip of the same flavour was perfect and amplifies such a festive flavour.

SIMPLE CARAMELISED ONION RECIPE

Makes 4-6 jars

8 red onions
1 red chilli
2 bay leaves
25ml olive oil
150ml red wine vinegar
200g brown sugar
150ml balsamic vinegar
150ml red wine vinegar

  1. Cut your onions and chilli into thin slices and put them into a pan with the bay leaves and oil. Cook gently over a low heat for about 20 minutes.
  2. Once the onions are dark and sticky, add the sugar and the vinegars and simmer for 30 minutes or so, until the chutney is thick and dark in colour.
  3. Pour the chutney into your glass jar, it’s best to sterilise your jar and pour in whilst the jar is still warm, to ensure your dip will be kept super fresh.
  4. The longer you leave the Chutney, the more the flavour will develop, so try and make it a little way before Christmas, although don’t worry if you are making a last minute gift, I think it tasted fab straight away!

 

So, when it comes to creating a Christmas Hamper, let your imagination run wild, spoil your friends and family this Christmas and give them a perfectly thoughtful homemade gift!

Post written in collaboration with Ryvita – All words, opinions and photographs are my own

The one minute Pud in a Mug

In my last post, I talked about our cozy pizza night in but I didn’t mention the most important part, the pudding! Everyone will know by now I have a super sweet tooth, and if there is one thing I’ve LOVED about being pregnant, it has been the excuse to get stuck in and eat lots of treats, without worrying too much about the size of my hips. I’ll worry about that after February! I also think the baby has a sweet tooth too as a lot of my cravings have revolved around sugar too.

So, as we were having a date night, we had the movie playing and wanted to spend as much time chilling out (i.e- not in the kitchen!) so I cooked us a couple of these really quick and easy Pud in a Mug desserts which are a new product in the Dr Oetker range. I’ve seen all the 1 minute mug-cake recipes on Pinterest, and as simple as they look I’ve never actually given them a go as creating the mixture is still going to take a bit of time, plus of course mess – if you are like me! The Pud in a Mug sachets literally take away all effort, they are so easy and perfect for a lazy date night. All you have to do is add milk to the mixture in your favourite mug (mine is from here!) and stir. Microwave for less than a minute and your warm, delicious pudding is ready! Ta Daa!

I’m always a bit sceptical about ready-mix cakes, but these are actually really delicious and the perfect warm pudding for a chilly night. The best part for me is that the top is lovely, spongey and warm, but as you delve deeper into your mug, the bottom is pure gooey, rich chocolate sauce, yum!

The range includes a variety of flavours – my favourite is the Rich Chocolate Sponge Pudding (pictured!), but you can also get Chocolate Chip and Lemon Sponge and Milk or Dark Chocolate Velvety Dessert too. Sachets can be picked up in all major supermarkets and are priced at £0.79. For creative ideas on your #PudInAMug, take a look at their Instagram here.

Enjoy! 

 

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Post written in collaboration with Pud in a Mug, however all opinions are my own

 

Peppermint Creams – Simple Christmas Recipe

As Christmas gets closer, I getting so in the festive spirit! So I decided this week to do a little baking! Well, I say the word ‘baking’ loosely, this is more a cold, no-bake sweet treat, but you get the idea! I’ve never been much of a cook, when I try and bake a cake, I turn my kitchen into a whirlwind of mess –  think flour EVERYWHERE including in my hair and eyebrows, eggs broken on the side, every single pot, pan and utensil covered in glooping cake mix and not much left in the mixing bowl. Yep, thats the usual scene of my kitchen once I’ve been in there, it always has been. I don’t know why, but cooking makes me so clumsy and accident prone. Because of this I usually avoid baking at all costs, but with baby on the way something inside is telling me to brush up my ‘home-making skills’ and finally learn to bake properly. After all I do want to teach my little girl to cook, so I really better get my act together myself or I’ll turn her into another little mini-baking disaster like me.

So, when Boohoo got in touch to ask what my favourite Christmas recipe was, I was inspired to finally get my baking skills off the ground and try and make something Christmassy to share on my blog. Plus, to really get me in the festive mood, they even sent me this really cute maternity Christmas Jumper to wear too!

I popped on the Christmassy tunes in the kitchen, limbered up and decided to start of easy by making something super easy but classic. So here it is, here are my delicious, sweet Peppermint Creams.

Ingredients: 

Method:

1. Measure the ingredients and sift the icing sugar. Gradually mix the icing sugar into the condensed milk. Add the peppermint extract to taste and knead until smooth.

2. Dust a clean surface with icing sugar and roll out the mixture to around 5mm thickness. Shape your peppermint creams by either using sweet cookie cutter shapes, or if you are like me and a bit cack-handed with a cutter – just roll into even balls and slightly flatten into even shapes.

3. Leave in a cool place to dry (about 2-3 hours).

4. Decorate your Peppermint Creams – this is the fun bit! There are so many ways you could decorate them so get creative! The most traditional way is to drizzle plain chocolate or dip one half. However I decided to go for a look which I fondly call ‘Polar Bears on the Rocks’, which is a nice thick swirl of Milk Chocolate, Edible Glitter Snow and Candy Polar bears, but each to their own!

5.  Allow to set. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container and use within 3 weeks.

Yum! They are so quick and easy to make, plus they are sweet and delicious too! These make ideal gifts with a lovely homemade touch. You can make a batch, then package them into cute bags as a little stocking filler. Enjoy! 

If you fancy a nosey at my last years Boohoo Christmas Jumper (featuring Robbie and I in matching jumpers) you can find that here.

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Post written in collaboration with Boohoo