Annie, of Spoon Cereals, came to the food industry in her second year of working in advertising. “I struggled to find a tasty, healthy, high quality bowl of cereal on my way to work each morning, which is why I decided to start up my own breakfast cereal company, Spoon Cereals, with mentor and business partner Jonny Shimmin.”
The compnay was only launched a year ago and already they’ve been on Dragons’ Den where they secured investment from Peter Jones and Deborah Meaden. They supply granola and muesli to Harvey Nichols, nationwide as well as local high-end delis in London. They sent me four of their cereals to try. Well cereal is the wrong word – they sent me muesli, granola and a museli-granola hybrid. Here’s what I thought:
Apple & peanut granola – this was my favourite. I loved it. Now I am not usually an apple person unless they’re crisp and fresh and raw. I don’t really go in for apple crumble, apple cake… you get the idea. But these dried pieces of apple (of which there were lots) really did it for me. They were ultra chewy and sweet; so to get the sugar you really had to work for it. This seemed right and fitting. The peanuts were as delicious as peanuts always are. A great combination that felt ever so slightly American for some reason. I admit to eating two bowls back to back upon first tasting. I sent the rest of the packet to work with my husband to stop me gobbling it all up as snack style trail mix.
Cinnamon granola – Gosh, I don’t want to sound like an old misery but again, I am not big on cinnamon baked goods. They always taste artificially sweet to me. I don’t know why. I really did like this granola though. The toasted hazelnuts were crunchy and abundant (none of that hunt the nut business here), the cinnamon coating was subtle and added a lovely crispness to the outside of the granola pieces AND it had coconut flakes. I am a coconut nut. I ate a small bowl with milk and then two tumblers-full as snacks. I have asked for this granola to be removed to husband’s work for fear of eating the whole lot in one sitting. (FYI: This variety has won a Great Taste Award).
Granola-muesli mix – I have issues with the naming of this. I reckon the makers of Spoon can be a bit more creative. One of them used to work in advertising for goodness sake (as a fellow ex ad girl I know it matters not which department she worked in; all ad folks are frustrated copywriters and art directors, even the copywriters and art directors). Anyway, onto the taste test; I ate a bowl with milk and I give it a tick. Enough dried fruit (ie/ a lot) to remain sweet , lots of brazil nuts, hazelnuts and almonds plus oats and rye flakes and spelt flakes galore. Yes it was very nice indeed but I couldn’t help think of the granola’s I’d sent into exhile (see above). Sorry, but my heart belongs to apple and peanut granola.
Fruit and nut museli – Come on guys, there’s a better name for this surely? Okay, so this is a breakfast for those folks who like to eat clean. There is no sugar, I repeat there is no sugar present in this muesli. And it tastes like it has no sugar. (Not even maple syrup which everyone knows isn’t really sugar, it’s healthy sweet syrup, right?) It was full of the good stuff; oat flakes, rye flakes, spelt flakes, hazelnuts that had been toasted to perfection, almonds, brazil nuts and loads of apricots, dates and sultanas. Even some pumpkin seeds. But honestly? This was too worthy for me. No thanks. I will leave it to the Eat Clean brigade and their perfect skin and jutting hip bones.
This is possibly the longest review in history but still I have more. I did have a small issue with the packaging. I LOVED their Harvey Nics (and surely Waitrose soon?) friendly outer white paper bags but the inside cellophane type bag was a bit too easy to rip in my opinion. The cereal doesn’t seem to be suffering from this as the white bags have a nifty fold over thingy that seals rather well. Still… this is a review so I’m going to mention it.
I have 1 x Spoon Cereal gift pack RRP £20 giveaway. There are lots of ways to enter – see the Rafflecopter form below. The first way is just to leave a comment on this post. Easy peasy. Closing date 20th February 2015. How to enter:
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Base Fashion sent me a lovely Gant Christmas jumper for baby Lawrence. It’s beautiful and it cost £42! That’s more than I spend on my own Christmas jumper, but it’s oh so soft being 100% cotton and has sweet little buttons on the shoulder to get it safely over his head without the usual squawking that ensues when I try and introduce anything other than a baby gro. Is it wrong that I am considering having this jumper framed once Lawrence has had his winter’s wear out of it? It’s just so incredibly dinky I want to preserve it.
I have 2 x Gant baby Xmas jumpers to giveaway worth £42 each (RRP). The available sizes are here. There are lots of ways to enter – see the Rafflecopter form below. The first way is just to leave a comment on this post. Easy peasy. Closing date 12th December 2014. How to enter:
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The Bake Off has a lot to answer for. When I was practising in 2011 the only books I could find on the subject were either very much written for the home cook or professional text books full of science, that whilst interesting (well to me) was something I just didn’t have time for. I was busy making 1000 croissants to prepare. Mich Turner’sCake School book sits between the two.
The book could be described as much like GBBO – it takes you on a journey. First off we start with lots of basics on ingredients. The seasoned cake bakers will know this lot already. Then we move onto some quite homely cakes – with an emphasis on fruit and vegetables. There’s a retro pineapple upside down cake, coffee hazelnut roulade and an orange chiffon cake.
Soon there’s advice on splitting and icing cakes with buttercream, jam and curds. How to make a shiny and stable ganache. Step by step instructions on piping cupcakes, royal icing and intricate wedding cake style detail. Hands up a lot of these type of cakes feel dated to me now. I’m a big fan of rustic cakes and very simple decoration. But these intricately iced cakes aren’t there for us to copy perfectly, they’re more a guide to use for inspiration.
There are sections throughout on what could have gone wrong which are very useful. Also sections on ‘what not to do’ and ‘Mich’s tips’ – all full of useful advice with sanitised science to explain why we should or shouldn’t do something.
Photography wise the style is very close up, not overly dressed and reminds me a little of Usbourne books from my childhood. But then this isn’t a lifestyle book. I don’t want to be Mich. I would like an ounce of her cakey skill though.
I have 2 x £30 (RRP) Mich Turner’s Cake School books to giveaway to two people. There are lots of ways to enter – see the Rafflecopter form below. The first way is just to leave a comment on this post. Easy peasy. Closing date 12th December 2014. How to enter:
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I like Lorraine Pascale. Okay, I’ve never met her and we’re not friends (though Lorraine, I am totally open to cocktails some time in London or even Leicester if you fancy a little jaunt on the Midland Mainline) but I think we could be. She seems like a girl’s girl. The type who would never ditch you for a bloke. Oh no. Lorraine is made of better moral stuff. A proper girlfriend.
So I was very pleased to be asked to review her latest book that accompanies her TV series, How to be a Better Cook. The book isn’t a Good Housekeeping style tome with details of how to fillet a seabass or indeed make a sourdough starter. It’s a book jam packed full with recipes that you might find really rather useful. It’s hard to ignore the fact that there’s a heavy slant on the healthier end of cooking. A lot of the recipes are low carb. There’s a high proportion dedicated to meat centric dishes. This for me is a bonus as frankly I need to eat a little low carb to deal with the last of the baby weight, plus if this is the food that makes LP look so utterly stunning then bring it on.
The book is very much of the moment. There are kale crisps for example. There’s pulled pork, a fair amount of pumpkin and Moroccan influence. And there’s a bit of novelty, which always appeals to me. Meringue ghosts, spider cupcakes, mummy wrapped sausages (I am publishing a recipe for this next week! See, we’re kindred cooking spirits I tell you!) and peanut shots. I like the book but if you are expecting a lot of classic LP baking recipes then this isn’t for you. It’s majority savoury. It’s food to eat every day, not just on high days and holidays.
Lorraine’s books are always strewn with motivational quotes. I follow her on Instagram and there’s a definite vulnerability to her. I don’t feel she posts these quotes for her followers, more for herself. A little reminder if you will. I like the quotes but I know some people won’t. They’re marmite in that way. Photo wise the shots are very crisp, very clear and almost masculine in the colour palette chosen for backgrounds. It’s not the Jamie Oliver style we’ve all become very accustomed to of late. There isn’t a lot of crumbs thrown casually across the table, there’s no messy chocolate shards lying in wait on the bench. The shots have been styled. They’re grown up.
All in all? A beautiful book that is genuinely useful. I like.
I have 3 signed copies of Lorraine Pascale’s How to be a Better Cook worth £25 (RRP) each to giveaway to three person. There are lots of ways to enter – see the Rafflecopter form below. The first way is just to leave a comment on this post. Easy peasy. Closing date 12th December 2014. How to enter:
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Agreeing to review Stokes sauces was a bit of a no brainer. Easy work. I already know I like them. Now I just have to write about it. What a treat.
So what did they send me? Well, I was lucky enough to receive their tomato ketchup (which my pal Victoria calls ‘the yummiest ketchup in the world’), their garlic mayo, their chilli jam and their red onion marmalade. Here are my thoughts:
Tomato ketchup: Not too sweet, very tomatoey (which might sound odd but given a lot of ketchups barely taste of the things this is noteworthy) with a hint of spice and importantly, a good consistency for dipping. Thick and luxurious.
Garlic mayo: Just the right side of garlicky with a homemade taste. I want to know I am eating garlic mayo, but don’t want that raw garlic aftertaste all day. We ate this with fried whitebait and oh what a good combo. It has a great consistency that results in a squelching sound if you try and dig to the bottom with a spoon.
Chilli jam: Well, of course I loved this! I am a chilli fiend. We ate this with cheese and biscuits and also shovelled some into halloumi, courgette and carrot fritters I made. (Recipe coming to the blog soon). Big hit – I have been slathering this all over Mr Bell’s sandwiches he takes to work meaning we are already half way through a jar. It packs a punch, but the sweetness means it doesn’t blow your socks off.
Red onion marmalade: Being a girl from Leicester I love a Red Leicester sandwich, especially when introduced to this relish. Very sweet (in a chutney type way rather than a sherbert fashion) and a beautiful claret red colour. I admit to adding this to a beef stew when I felt too lazy to caramelise some onions for the base sauce. It was very good. Also good as a marinade when mixed with soy and mustard for painting over a ham.
I have a £40 (RRP) Stokes hamper containing 9 products to giveaway to one person. There are lots of ways to enter – see the Rafflecopter form below. The first way is just to leave a comment on this post. Easy peasy. Closing date 21st November 2014. How to enter:
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I was sent a couple of pictures by Outshine Art to review and very beautiful they were too. Suzanne runs Outshine Art from her Walton-on-Thames studio. She used to work as a buyer for Harvey Nics which I think is a good benchmark to describe the kind of quality and attention to detail you can expect from Outshine.
Suzanne creates framed art from sketches she has drawn which are then cut-out from thick white mountboard. Under the mountboard she places beautiful colour prints. All in all the effect is simple but beautiful – the white mountboard makes the colour prints underneath stand out. This is the kind of artwork any nursery across the land would be proud to display. Of course she personalises them too by embossing the names onto the mountboard. Oh and she doesn’t just make art for little ones – check out her website for lots of ideas.
I love that Suzanne started this business after she’d had her first child. Sometimes having a baby really does get the creative streak in us going. The pictures are handmade, really high quality and the kind of gift I can well imagine a Mum being mighty pleased with.
Things I liked: Very high quality images and frame, beautiful wrapping, a very bespoke experience. Well priced given the artisan quality.
Things I didn’t like: Nothing!
I have a voucher for £60 to spend with Outshine Art to giveaway. There are lots of ways to enter – see the Rafflecopter form below. The first way is just to leave a comment on this post. Easy peasy. Closing date 21st November 2014. How to enter:
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What I would do for a new oven! Mine is battered and bruised after a lot of abuse from yours truly. Argos got in touch with me and asked if they could GIVE AWAY a range cooker to the readers of the blog. Yes! I know. I was a bit speechless too. Anyway, here are the details:
There’s 1 Stoves cooker to giveaway courtesy of Argos worth £449.99 up for grabs. There are lots of ways to enter – see the Rafflecopter form below. The first way is just to leave a comment on this post. Easy peasy. Closing date 14th November 2014. How to enter:
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It wasn’t that long ago that baby showers were just for the rich and famous. Now they’re as much a part of having a baby as hen do’s are an obligatory precursor to getting married. A baby shower is your send off into motherhood, whether it’s your first time or you’ve already popped out a few babies.
If you’re organising a baby shower for a friend or even yourself there are a few questions to ask before you even book a venue:
If you’re inviting lots of people who don’t know each other well, you might need a game or two to help break the ice. Guessing the weight, gender and birthday of the baby is a good starter. Or buying some cheap white baby gros and some fabric pens and setting everyone to work creating a masterpiece fit for a princess or prince gets everyone chatting too.
Presents can be a tricky one. Some people are superstitious and prefer to only buy for the baby once he or she arrives. My advice is to keep present buying Mum focused. All too soon every gift she receives will be baby related. What about a voucher for a relaxing foot massage and pedicure (I’m assuming she find reaching her feet difficult by now!), a delicious smelling candle or some super soft PJs for making those night feeds a little more enjoyable? For the Mums who already have children practical help is often what they crave most; maybe some IOU vouchers for babysitting, making an evening meal or doing a load of washing and ironing? Just make sure she uses them.
Last, but in my opinion, most importantly, the food and drink. An afternoon tea party is a treat whether pregnant or not so it’s a great place to start. Perhaps kick things off with a mocktail like a virgin mojito and follow with fine leaf tea served in beautiful china tea cups with saucers.
Bear in mind any cravings the Mum to be might have had and try and incorporate them into the catering if they’re not too weird and wonderful. (Gherkin ice cream anyone?) Small, dainty bites like tiny crustless finger sandwiches filled with ham and mustard, slivers of cucumber or poached salmon and mayonnaise always go down well. Follow them with miniature scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream, little fine French macarons, heart shaped lemony shortbread biscuits and of course, a chocolately treat. Like these brownies.
Lucky for readers of the blog I have a giveaway from Pink Lining for those looking for a smart changing bag used by normal Mums and also celebs too. They have a fine selection of baby shower gifts if you find yourself organising or invited to one.
There are 2 Woodland changing bags worth £79 each up for grabs. There are lots of ways to enter – see the Rafflecopter form below. The first way is just to leave a comment on this post. Easy peasy. Closing date 12th September 2014. How to enter:
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NB: Sponsored post.