Featured

The Classic Treat

Weekends. How precious they are. Come 5pm on a Friday evening the whole weekend lies ahead of you; a glorious 48 hours to be filled with whatever takes your fancy. Yet it can be taken away so quickly, eaten up by ‘adult things’ such as cleaning (who wants to clean midweek?), trips to the tip (after moving into our own home we always seem to hoard copious amounts of cardboard) and catching up with friends who no longer live in one place.

The one question I never seem to be able to find the answer to is why do 48 hours at work never pass by at the same speed? If you can’t slow down time then you might as well fill it with niceties, especially when you’ve been working all week long.

A quintessentially English pastime has to be afternoon tea, which has evolved recently from simple tea, sandwiches, cakes and scones to afternoon tea for men (here’s a few suggestions) and every theme you could think of (there’s even a space themed one).

This year my favourite Disney film was re-made into a live action blockbuster starring Emma Watson and has to be one of my favourite films of the year (I saw it twice). Imagine my delight when I was informed that there is a Beauty and the Beast themed afternoon tea at the Kensington Hotel called ‘Tale as Old as Time’ (click here to find out more) which, you guessed it, serves up treats that pay homage to this classic love story.

afternoon tea

Almost too good to eat? Of course not, all good things have to come to an end!

I’ve tried out quite a few afternoon teas over the last couple of years and what I loved about this one (apart from the theme which just elevates afternoon tea to a whole new level) was that it was served in courses. The first course was savoury: Bite-Sized Venison Pie, Cheese Souffle with Roscoff Onion Pissaladiere, and a Beef Ragu & Saffron Arancini served with Lemon Creme Fraiche.

20171104_141429.jpg

Then they brought out a cute array of Beauty & the Beast themed sweets: Vanilla & Gold Jelly presented in shot glasses with the ever-symbolic rose petal immersed inside, served with cream poured from Mrs. Potts spout; ‘try the grey stuff it’s delicious’ White Chocolate Mousse; Spiced Snow Ball Macaroon; Coconut & Chocolate and a marzipan Cogsworth face cheekily grinning back at you.

This was also served with finger sandwiches (a staple classic) and brioche baguettes with chocolate spread, which made a welcome change to scones.

The overall quality of the items was excellent however some were lacking flavour. The Vanilla & Gold Jelly tasted of nothing and the ‘try the grey stuff it’s delicious’ chocolate mousse again was quite bland, which was disappointing as it was presented beautifully in a Chip mug. However, I’d give 10/10 for presentation and creativity, as all the items linked in well with the film and made the whole experience very fun and Instagrammable. I kept waiting patiently for someone to come out dressed as the Beast, as that would have made my day…maybe the Kensington Hotel could add in an extra part of the package, a meet and greet the Beast! No? Just me? Perhaps not classy enough for SW7…

20171104_143658.jpg

The props were brilliant!

The price of this afternoon tea from 1st January 2018 is £38.50, which has gone up from the £35.00 we paid recently. Some may find this a disgusting price for tea, cakes and sandwiches but I think it’s worth the price tag for something so unique and we easily spent 2 hours there, so you can make a day out of it. Also, the hotel itself is lovely with warm, friendly and attentive staff plus you’re not crammed in like some other afternoon tea venues.

Now to finish it all off, some of my favourite quotes from the film:

“Take it with you so you’ll always have a way to look back … and remember me.” – Beast

“I want adventure in the great wide somewhere! I want it more than I can tell!”– Belle

“She warned him not to be deceived by appearances, for beauty is found within.” – Narrator

“Here’s where she meets Prince Charming, but she won’t discover that it’s him ’til chapter three!” – Belle

I’m always on the lookout for other unique Afternoon Tea experiences so please comment below!

 

 

Advertisements

The Fly & Flop

aj-garcia-225308

All Inclusive holidays. For some the idea of luxury; for others they couldn’t think of anything worse.

Having spent a week in Lanzarote at the Elba Lanzarote Royal Village Resort (which is a great place to stay, I’d recommend it) on an All Inclusive package I can now see why many holidaymakers like to fly and then flop.

That is to fly to a destination on a package break, lie on a sun lounger and do absolutely nothing for a whole week (well, apart from lifting the odd cocktail to your lips, the odd occasional swim and eating your body weight in food).

20170509_203450.jpg

Soaking up the sun on our terrace. My dress is from New Look and the sunglasses are from TK Maxx. But I’ve been eyeing up the gorgeous sunglasses at cool Aussie brand Quay for some time now…

I’m not 100% sure whether fly and flop is for me. Firstly you end up seeing the same people for breakfast, for lunch, by the pool, at dinner. And secondly it does get repetitive; you almost get sucked into a bubble in your resort where the outside world is a blur.

Also, you almost lose the sense of exploration and adventure that is felt when visiting a new city or place. That feeling where you wander aimlessly but often stumble across some hidden gems as a result of your lack of direction and purpose.

And there’s no getting lost in a hotel resort when absolutely everything is signposted!

So are you thinking of an All Inclusive holiday?

Well let me help you make a decision by reviewing my top 5 reasons to go and not to go on an All Inclusive break.

For

1. Food! Glorious Food! Prepare to put on weight on an All Inclusive break. I love a good buffet and having been to Las Vegas last year I know a good buffet when I see one. I think an All Inclusive buffet steps, dare I say, up from Vegas because you can have buffet breakfast, lunch AND dinner. Where else can you have pasta among paella and bacon eggs followed by a chocolate brioche?

2. Not having to carry around money. Having been away on a holiday with my partner it can get irritating to always have to work out how much of the bill we each need to pay. Then there’s the dilemma of constantly keeping track of how much of your funds are left. With an All Inclusive break you only have to flash that wristband, make your order and enjoy. Simple.

3. Feeling safe. I’ve travelled to places like Thailand and Brazil before and there is something a bit nerve wracking about flying and navigating your way around a foreign and far-flung country. With an All Inclusive package holiday you are taken care of, from the minute you step off the flight to the minute you board the coach back to the airport.

4. Drinks. ‘If you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain’… then truthfully you might need an umbrella because you may catch a chill! But in all seriousness, pina coladas were one of the highlights of my holiday. Being All Inclusive they were of course unlimited and could be, to some extent, ‘free’ if you drunk enough of them (NB: divide cost of holiday by number of pina coladas drunk to see how you score. If the figure is higher than the cost of the holiday per person, then you’ve really done your holiday right. And also may be in A&E awaiting a new liver).

5. Activities. There’s no need to step a foot out of the complex if you don’t want to and an All Inclusive holiday is the chance to try new things. Most large All Inclusive hotels arrange an ‘animation programme’, where they arrange activities like water aerobics, Zumba, archery and football. We rented out the tennis court twice during our stay and had great fun so you don’t have to lounge about all day if it doesn’t suit you.

Against

1. Familiar faces. When you’re living, sunbathing, drinking and eating within the same complex you’re bound to see the same people. Again. And again. We overheard a couple on the plane saying they were going to our resort and we always seemed to be seated near them at dinner. I like to people watch but it’s hard to exercise that hobby when the people don’t change!

2. Screaming kids. If you go to an adults only hotel then this will obviously not be a problem but All Inclusive does attract families because of the ease and convenience. Whilst our hotel did have an adults only pool and restaurant we preferred the choice of food in the main buffet and in order to get this variety you need to endure kids running around and making lots of noise. One poor kid was all alone at the pancake station and I ended up serving her a pancake because she couldn’t use the tongs. I don’t hate kids but I don’t really want to have to be getting involved with babysitting on my holiday!

3. Varying entertainment. Whilst the activities are a plus point (point 5 above), the entertainment in All Inclusive complexes can be cheesy and of a poor quality. If you don’t like tribute acts, circus shows and kids discos and are hoping for something to keep you occupied in the evening, then it may not be for you. I missed wandering around a town looking at the bars and actually being able to make a choice, rather than only having the option of whatever is on that night.

4. Routine. There’s not really any room for spontaneity in an All Inclusive hotel. Dinners are set times and it can sometimes feel a bit regimented. If you like to have a fry up at 1pm in the afternoon because when you’re on holiday you deserve whatever your heart desires, then perhaps stick to that self catering break.

5. Cabin fever. Whilst the hotel resort is likely to be large, you do feel a bit caged in as all of your waking minutes are spent in one area. Some people like to hire a car on holiday but there’s not really point doing this on an All Inclusive break because you’d miss out on the lunch and drinks you’ve paid for.

Do you prefer All Inclusive or Self Catering? Let me know in the comments below!

The Lazy Chef

First came Jamie Oliver and the Naked Chef. Now let me introduce you to the sensation of the twenty-tens…the Lazy Chef.

No, this is not some gadget you find being sold on a late night shopping channel or some new TV chef personality. The Lazy Chef is all about advocating food and flavour but is somewhat lacking time and the culinary experience needed to achieve this outcome.

In short, The Lazy Chef is you, me or whoever wants to eat well without spending copious amounts of money or minutes slaving away in the kitchen.

The Lazy Chef’s favourite tool is a slow cooker. Slow cookers first achieved popularity in the US in the 1970s and are having somewhat of a resurgence.

My memory of a slow cooker is of my Mum and a winter staple: casserole with maybe a few dumplings to add that much needed stodge.

However, the slow cooker has had a makeover with televison presenter and author Sarah Wilson, among many, creating her I Quit Sugar cook book which is sold in 46 countries across the world.

Whilst I own the book I am yet to try any of the recipes; I’m not really a believer in cutting out whole food groups but some of the recipes caught my eye, so I’ll definitely be giving them a try!

Up until now I’ve only cooked a Thai Green Chicken Curry in my slow cooker. First attempt was a winner but my second and third attempts have not gone well. I’ve come to the conclusion that chicken is not the best meat to cook slowly for hours on end, as if you leave it for 7 or 8 hours it just goes mushy and stringy.

Being a lover of meat I was inspired by the BBQ delights of the restaurant Bodeans for my next shot at slow cooking. If you’ve never been to Bodeans then you really need to give it a try (if you’re veggie, perhaps give it a miss as the menu alone gives any carnivore the meat sweats!)

Deciding what to make…

Pulled pork has been cropping up on menus for a few years now. Pulled pork nachos. Pulled pork burgers. Even pulled pork sausages exist. Who knew such a thing even existed? Should they not be called pulled pork pork sausages?

So last Saturday I gave pulled pork a go in, you guessed it, my slow cooker. I followed this recipe but with one tweak at the end:

Instead of putting the shredded meat back into the slow cooker, I strained the slow cooker juices in a colander (put a bowl under the colander to ensure none of the juices go astray). I then put the shredded meat into the juice that was in the bowl to let them soak. I made this change as I thought that getting the meat out of the slow cooker juices would mean getting the chopped up onion and garlic with it and this was the ‘stuff’ I wanted to leave behind!

The Big Reveal

This was what it all looked like at the start (if like me you panic and think how on earth will this ever look like pulled pork, don’t worry I had the same initial ‘oh my god will this be edible’ moment):

slow cooker at start

Oh what a difference six hours makes:

20170408_195618

This was it once taken out of the slow cooker (if like me you think it looks like a shriveled and diseased lung then don’t panic because it does taste good, believe me):

pork at end

Shredding it was the toughest part (although I left that for my partner to do, I’m sure he enjoyed it as it’s quite a manly task):

shredded pork

I made the coleslaw using this recipe:

homemade slaw.jpg

And served it up in a bun with seasoned sweet potato wedges and corn on the cob:

served up

What a treat!