Hamlyn quick cook recipe books review

As much as I enjoy cooking, there are many days when I don’t have much time to spend in the kitchen cooking. Other days I happily spend longer in the kitchen baking our bread, a cake for a special occasion or trying out slightly more time consuming recipes. When time is short I often fall back on a few much loved, simple recipes. Sometimes though I feel stuck in a cooking rut when it comes to quick meals.A few weeks back I was sent a collection of 6 cookbooks that might just be the answer to those evenings when you get home from work, tired and hungry. Hamlyn quick cook books each contain 360 recipes that can be cooked in 30 minutes or less. Each page includes 3 recipes that share a common group of ingredients/theme and is paired with a full colour photograph of one of the dishes. The 3 recipes are always one that can be cooked in 10 minutes, one in 20 minutes and one in 30 minutes. For example I chose to cook crab fried rice which took 20 minutes but if I only had 10 minutes I could have cooked crab and rice salad with lime dressing or if I wanted to spend 30 minutes cooing I could have cooked crab and rice cakes with lime dipping sauce. Each page also contains a unique code that if you type into their website you can download a recipe to print or have the recipe emailed to you (text only) so you could access it on your phone to buy the ingredients on your way home from work for example.

Crab fried rice (20 minutes)

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Hotel chocolat extra thick Easter egg review

With Easter just around the corner, you can’t help but have noticed the shops are full of Easter eggs. Hotel Chocolat kindly sent me one of their extra thick Easter eggs to review. I chose the rocky road to caramel as I love caramel and the rocky road half sounded good too.

As you can see it arrived beautifully packaged. Inside there are two Easter eggs halves each with a handful of chocolates nestled inside.

The eggs were indeed extra thick. The picture above is a bit deceptive as the eggs are not that thick all the way through. But I would say they are at least twice as thick as standard eggs and the extra thickness at the edges is an added bonus.

You can see the caramel egg above which consists of two layers of chocolate. The outer layer is caramel chocolate and the inner is 40% milk chocolate.Below you can see the rock road egg which is again 40% milk chocolate stuffed with puffer rice, chocolate chunks and biscuit pieces. I enjoyed both halves but my favorite was the caramel side. However for my husband it was the oposite way round. The chocolates inside were pralines and caramel based. They were all absolutly delicious as I have come to expect from Hotel Chocolat.

Overall we both loved this Easter egg and if money were no object (it retails at £26 which to me is definately the luxury end of the Easter egg market) this would without a doubt the Easter egg I would be giving this Easter. You can see Hotel Chocolat’s full range of Easter eggs here. There is something for every budget, from the much more affordable £5 right up to £70.

Thank you again to Hotel chocolat for sending me this egg to review.

Hotel chocolat valentines day chocolates review

Can you believe it’s nearly february already? and with February almost here it means valentines day is not too far behind. Hotel chocolat have yet again got a fantastic looking selection of valentines day gifts with something for every budget. From the signature cabinet at £160 down to the valentines choco-o-gram at £4.50.

I was sent one of their mid price options to review. The sleekster love selection retails at £22 and contains 26 chocolates. There are 13 different chocolates in the box (2 of each flavour so perfect for sharing). As ever not only do the chocolates taste divine they look stunning too.

We really enjoyed there christmas sleekster collection so had high hopes for their valentines box. However when I read the description on the website which talks about fruity little numbers with blackcurrent and strawberry I was a little disappointed as I am not usually a fan of fruity chocolates.  I should have trusted Hotel chocolat more though as apart from the strawberry and black pepper one, I did enjoy the fruit flavours. In fact buck’s fizz (with a hint of orange flavour), raspberry rapture and blackcurrant truffles were some of my favorites in the box. Other flavours that stood out were the soft chilli carmel (with a serious chilli kick) and the vanilla truffle. My husband loved the Bison grass vodka chocolate and also the cherry bombe (he also enjoyed the strawberry and black pepper the only one I didn’t particularly enjoy). All in all a delicious box of chocolates.Thank you to Hotel chocolat for sending me The sleekster love selection for this review.

Roast figs sugar snow – book review

Originally published in 2005, roast figs and sugar snow is a beautiful collection of winter recipes by Diana Henry. The book is a collection of recipes perfect for the colder months with recipes from Diana’s travels to the chillier parts of the world. There are dishes from Russia, Scandinavia, Northern Italy, France, New England, Quebec, Britain and Ireland.

Each chapter has a beautifully written introduction which can not fail to inspire you to try the recipes or at least get in the kitchen and cook with the featured ingredient. Each chapter is based around a specific ingredient or group of ingredients. For example ‘Gathering in’ is recipes using chestnuts, hazel nuts, walnuts and pecans. There are also chapters on cheese, winter vegetables, game and wild mushrooms, pork, smoked food, groups of winter fruits (apples, pears, damsons, figs etc) and maple syrup (sugar snow).

So far I have cooked Tartiflette and smoked haddock and leek risotto from the book (both recipes were easy to follow and the end dish delicious). There are many more recipes I want to try this winter including Italian Christmas chocolate cake (a pudding using the flavours of panforte), roast squash salad with lentils and goat’s cheese, roast beetroot salad with orange and goat’s cheese, tagliatelle with roast pumpkin, sage, ricotta and smoked cheese, Swedish hash and snow biscuits.The book is full of stunning inspiring photos of the ingredients, the dishes and autumn/winter scenes. This is a cookbook to read snuggled up on a snowy day, to inspire you to get in the kitchen and cook with all the beautiful ingredients winter has to offer.


Serves 6

1.3kg waxy potatoes (no need to peel)
Salt and pepper
75g unsalted butter
2tbsp olive oil
250g chunky bacon lardons
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 reblochon (about 350g)
75g creme fraiche

  • Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until just tender. Drain. When they are cool enough to handle, slice the potatoes. Heat half the butter and oil together in a saute pan and cook the potatoes until they are golden. Season with salt and pepper and put them into a shallow ovenproof dish.
  • preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas 5. Heat the rest of the butter and oil in the same saute pan and cook the lardons over a fairly high heat to colour them well. Turn the heat down, add the onion and cook it until soft and just beginning to colour. Throw in the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Add this to the ovenproof dish and gently combine with the potatoes.
  • Cut the reblochon into slices and trim the rind. Dot spoonfuls of creme fraiche all over the potatoes and cover with the slices of Reblochon. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. The cheese should be melted and bubbling. Serve immediately.

Thank you to Octopus books for my review copy and allowing me to share this recipe with you.

Hotel chocolat Christmas gifts review and a giveaway

This giveaway is now closed, thank you to everyone who took part.

When I was asked to take part in Hotel chocolat’s christmas blogger campaign I was thrilled. They very kindly sent me their Christmas collection gift bag to review which is part of their fabulous selection of christmas gifts. Not only that but they are giving me the opportunity to give one lucky reader the same gift bag too.

The Christmas collection gift bag includes the Classic Christmas Sleekster Selection, Christmas Gift Slab with milk chocolate and dark cookie pieces, Gingerbread Truffles and Orange Nice Spice Puddles. Over the last couple of weeks myself and my husband have tested these chocolates and here’s what we thought of them. Continue reading

Chesters by the river, Ambleside

A couple of weeks ago we spent a long weekend in the Lake district to celebrate my 30th birthday. We stayed in a camping pod on the shores of lake Windermere (you can read more about it and see plenty of photos from the trip on my photography blog here, here and here). I’ve shared some of my favorite cafes and restaurants in Ambleside before (here) and we went back to a couple of them this time round and enjoyed them just as much as we remembered (Zeffirellis and The Glass house). We did try a couple of new cafes, one of which I really want to tell you all about (not that they need the publicity though as they were packed). The cafe is Chesters by the river which is located a short drive from the centre of Ambleside. It is owned by the same people as The drunken duck inn.

Chesters by the river is set in a beautiful location (as you might imagine from the name it is right by the river) and it is a fantastic cafe and beautiful gift shop selling lots of unique gifts (including some food related). There is a large outdoor seating area overlooking the river and plenty of seating indoors for when it rains (which being the Lake district happens a lot). It was a glorious sunny day when we visited so all the outside seats were taken. We weren’t too disappointed as inside the cafe is beautifully designed and laid out (perhaps a bit too pink and girly for my husbands taste!).

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By now you may have already hear of Farmison, the new online store that launched Nationwide this month. If not let me tell you a bit about it. Farmison.com is short for ‘farm produce is on-line’. It is a new online food store delivering the finest British produce, directly from farmers across the country, who traditionally supply our great British chefs to UK homes.  They work with over 75 of the best independent British suppliers across butchery, fruit and vegetables, and farmhouse cheese – more than 60% of which are not available anywhere else online.

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Pieminister cookbook review & giveaway

I’m a great believer in healthy eating but I also believe that balance diet should include treats and less healthy options. It’s not about what you eat in a day but what you eat in a week. Life would be very boring/difficult if we didn’t indulge in the occasional treat etc. With this concept in mind I took up the offer to review the first cookbook from pieminister. If you are going to indulge then it should be enjoyable. Have you ever ordered a cake  or desert as a treat, only to be disappointed by the lack of flavour? I have (but thankfully not very often). So if I’m going to make a pie who better to trust than Pieminister who have been baking and selling award winning pies since 2003. Their pies are sold at festivals, from their Pieminister cafes and in the best delis, farmers markets and pubs as well as nationwide mail order from their website & in some supermarkets nationwide.

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Fishy fishy cookbook review & a giveaway

This competition is now closed.

I’ll be honest before I was approached to review this cookbook I’d never heard of Fishy Fishy brasserie. I have learnt it is a Brighton based restaurant opened up by Dermot O’Leary, James Ginzler and Paul Shovlin. They share a passion for fish but most importantly for locally source, in season and sustainable fish. In their first cookbook they share their passion for fish and their expertise in sourcing and preparing fish.

The book starts out by explaining the importance of eating fish when they are in season, explores different fishing methods and explains how to buy and prepare fish. As well as this information, I found the chart at the back of the book particularly useful for knowing which fish are in season when.The main body of the cookbook features over 90 recipes, most of which include a beautiful photograph of the dish to tempt you in to preparing the recipe. There are chapters on starters, barbecue & al fresco eating, everyday fish and shellfish, special occasions and finally a chapter on sauces, side dishes and desserts. The recipes appear simple to prepare and there is a wide variety of fish and seafood used as well as a variety of recipe styles. Everything from pasta & risotto, fish cakes, salads, fish cooked whole and simply cooked fish fillets are included.As a self-confessed fussy fish eater who’s fish cooking skills are somewhat lacking, I have to say I really like this book and look forward to cooking more recipes from it (I know, I’m shocked too). I really think this is a good fish cookbook for novice fish cookers. The recipes are straight forward yet inspiring, there is lots of information on how to buy and prepare different types of fish and the book is full of beautiful photography. In case you missed it, I posted a recipe from the book a few days back – Sticky mackerel, I loved this dish and will be making it again this month before mackerel goes out of season. Other recipes I hope to try include warm mackerel salad with rhubarb chutney, fishburgers, quick crab, chilli and basil linguini, Provencal-style mussels, whole roasted grey gurnard and baked plaice with garlic and thyme new potatoes.

If you’re considering buying this book and want a bit more of a preview why not download their free app from itunes. 10 of the recipes from the book are included as well as a few demonstration videos. The video on preparing crab made it look so straight forward I’m think of buying one to have a go myself!


I have one copy of this cookbook to giveaway to one of my readers. All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning a copy of this great cookbook is leave me a comment telling me your favorite way to cook fish. For a bonus entry please tweet about this giveaway using the button below and come back and leave me a comment to tell me you have done so.

The rules

This competition is only open to readers with a UK mailing address. The winner will be selected using an online randomiser and I will announce the winner in a post on this blog (and notify them by email) as soon as possible after the giveaway closes. Giveaway ends 7th September 2011, 7pm.

Please leave a separate comment for each different type of entry.

Please make sure when you leave a comment you include your email address so I can contact you if you win.

Thank you to New Holland publishers for my review copy and for sending one of my readers a copy too.