The Fly & Flop

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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).

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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!

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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:

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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:

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

served up

What a treat!