brunch club

It’s been a while since I went anywhere new for brunch.

What with the whole global pandemic thing, and then a new puppy who quite frankly I find scary enough taking to an empty field, the opportunity hasn’t really arisen for me to enjoy a casual sweetcorn fritter or two somewhere new and exciting. In fact when I went back and checked, the last time I wrote about going out for brunch was when I had homemade baked beans at The Weir in February 2020, which felt rather poignant and sad.

A couple of weeks ago though, when Mako the puppy was going through a short, well behaved phase where I trusted her not to bark loudly in my face for half an hour or so, Belle and I decided to brave it and take her out for her first ever brunch. Frogmary Green Farm‘s cafe and restaurant, Farm and Field, said it was dog friendly and it was far enough from home that if we did end up causing a scene we could just never go back and no one would be any the wiser.

As it was, Mako was very well behaved, and so you now ARE the wiser.

We went while they were having their one of their sunflower weekends so that we could pretend we were going for a wholesome outdoor activity and not JUST pancakes, and although that has now finished I noticed that they have a pumpkin patch coming up soon, which would definitely be worth a visit. They also have their own small florist on site, Frogmary Flowers, which was very sweet. (Mako DID knock over a pot outside the flower shop but we stood it up again quickly and I think we got away with it.)

Frogmary Green Farm View Post

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The Golden Girl donut

A little while ago I discovered the joy that is getting cookery books out of the library.

I’ve always gone to the library, obviously, I’ve not just suddenly discovered it as concept. I’ve facilitated my fair share of summer reading challenges with the girls, and been to story times, and done all the usual library things, but for some reason it had never occurred to be to get recipe books from the library. Silly really, as they are BOOKS, dur.

So anyway a few weeks ago I went along to the library, with my tote bag, and there were shelves and shelves of them! I sat on the floor and looked at all the pictures of all the things I’d probably never get around to making, but liked looking at nonetheless. I concentrated on baking because I find it more enjoyable cooking when I’m not hungry, just for the fun of making something. When you’ve been answering the ‘what’s for tea’ question every day at 4.30pm for over 20 years then the joy of cooking actual meals becomes a teeny bit diminished.

I ended up with a big stack of books for my tote bag and one of them was DONUTS by Vicky Graham.  View Post

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Homemade Snickers bars – Advertisement feature in association with Snackmasters

I could not be more excited today.

You know how much I love making things that look like other things, (remember the homemade party rings and homemade Tunnock’s teacakes?), well today I’ve been actually, properly recruited to make my own homemade Snickers bars! I know, it’s my dream job right? I am so chuffed with it, honestly, I can’t tell you.

I’ve been roped in by Snackmasters to help promote their new series. Snackmasters is a Channel 4 show where top chefs go head to head to try to recreate an iconic dish or snack. I loved the first series, where they made things like a Burger King Whopper and a bag of Monster Munch, and the most recent series is shaping up to be just as fun, with chefs recreating KFC, Wagon Wheels, and, which is were I come in, the Snickers bar.

Now I’m going to say straight up that although I haven’t watched the episode yet, I’m 100% confident that if I was one of the chefs, that I would win. It’s a bold claim I know, but every single person I’ve tried my homemade Snickers bars on has said that they are EVEN BETTER than the original. Now you could argue that in a competition where the aim is to copy something, that making your version even better than the original equals a failure – to those people I say get in the bin.

My homemade Snickers bars are amazing and that’s the end.

how to make a Snickers bar View Post

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I’ve always said I’m more of a biscuit than a cake person.

I know, controversial, but I’ve just never bought into that whole ‘I’m a woman and therefore I love cake’ storyline. Getting a slice of cake will not entice me to your event. I will not make a guilty looking face and say ‘ooh go on then, just a small bit’, like I don’t really deserve it but I’m going to ‘treat myself.’ 

If I want to eat something then I will eat it and I will enjoy it, I won’t be part of a weird female subcultural that defines itself by sweet treats.

Hmmm.

I’m not sure where that feminist cake rant came from. But also I don’t apologise.

I’m not saying I hate cake or anything, that would be an unusual way to introduce a post about cake, I’m just saying I prefer cookies. Or bourbons. God I love bourbons. I’ve even made homemade bourbons such is my love for them. If I could sit somewhere sunny with a packet of bourbons, a good book and a cat on my lap, fur warm from the sun, I reckon I’d be about as happy as it’s possible to be without being on a brunch date at a cat café with Reese Witherspoon.

So my idea was this – make a cake, but disguise it as a giant bourbon biscuit. Trick my subconscious into thinking I was eating a huge bourbon, when actually it was a light and fluffy sponge. Genius right? And why stop there? When I started diving into the idea of cakes that looked like other things, I even discovered amazing things like this fast food cake from agnes de sucre. A cake that looks like burger and fried chicken? I’m in.

Back to my bourbon cake – did I manage to trick myself? Sort of. Not really. But it looked awesome so it was totally worth it.

giant bourbon cake View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with HelloFresh

Cooking at home is wearing a bit thin isn’t it? A whole year of coronavirus, repeated lockdowns, and quite frankly if I never have to shop and cook for myself again it will be too soon. I just don’t want to have to think about meal planning, I don’t want to come up with new recipe ideas, my brain has run out.

Fortunately there are companies like HelloFresh ready to do the brainwork for me, who can take the time to create and put together new, interesting and healthy recipes and save me from another dinner of blue cheese and Frazzle sandwiches. (An actual lunch I ate.)

This week in our HelloFresh box we had sweet and sour chicken, really tasty halloumi tacos and pork chilli and bacon cheesy burritos with a zesty avocado black bean salad.

That’s the recipe I’m going to show you today.

pork chilli burritos HelloFresh

HelloFresh recipes come with exactly what you need – all of your ingredients in the right quantities, easy to follow recipe cards and no waste. For me that’s one of the things that normally puts me off trying new recipes – knowing that in a couple of months time I’m just going to be throwing away 7/8 of a jar of harissa paste. With HelloFresh you avoid this as they only send you exactly the right amounts. View Post

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This pork and cider casserole recipe post is brought to you in association with Thorner’s Farm Shop.

pork and apple and cider slow cooker casserole recipe

I don’t know about you but it feels to me like the further we get into this pandemic, the more my life revolves around food.

I’ve always been the sort of person who thinks about what they’re going to have for lunch while they’re eating breakfast, but when food shopping is pretty much the only sort of shopping you can do, and the days and weeks stretch ahead for miles, snacks become EVERYTHING.

Not that I’m complaining. I love eating, and not being able to eat out and get my brunch fix has meant I’ve spent more time trying new recipes and eating delicious things at home. Like last weekend for instance when I had a delivery from Thorner’s Farm Shop in Shepton Mallet and cooked a feast of slow cooker pork and cider casserole and pineapple cake with Malibu frosting. (You heard me.)

I’ve been a fan of Thorner’s since I discovered their award-winning pies recently, and I’ve had my love for them reinforced by the fact that the adorable deli that I walk to across the fields – Gaia Garden – has become a stockist.

Lovely walk through the countryside? Delightful! Pie to take home for dinner? Don’t mind if I do.

Thorner’s stock all kinds of things besides pies though, including an ever-expanding range of local meats. I wanted to showcase the variety of their online farm shop through this post, so in my weekend feast I used a fruit and a vegetable box, local cider, outdoor reared diced pork, local butter and eggs. I also had a very lovely Somerset wine – the Aldwick Estate Buteo – but I have to confess that this was so good that I drank it all before remembering to take a photo. Do go and check it out though. I recommend.

I was particularly impressed with the veg and fruit boxes. My fruit box for example included apples, satsumas, pears, bananas, a lemon and a lime, blueberries, grapes and a whole pineapple. (Hence the pineapple cake.) I think this is really good value for £9.99. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Foodhub

What have you missed most over the last 12 months? I’ve missed food, specifically someone else cooking for me. Belle cooks at home a couple of times a week, which I do really appreciate, but that still involves me helping her decide what she’s going to make, shopping for ingredients and clearing up after her.

Let’s just say it’s not exactly the stress-free restaurant experience.

What I really want is for someone to do everything – the planning, the choosing, the cooking and the washing up – as well as keeping my wine glass topped up. Oh and I want to be surrounded by witty and entertaining people. It’s not too much to ask is it?

The closest we can get at the moment is a takeaway. A takeaway at least takes care of the bulk of the work, leaving me just in charge of wine and Belle having to take on the role of ‘witty and entertaining company.’ She tries. She’s more entertaining than I’ve become in the last year for sure.

As an extended family we miss eating out together too. Pretty much all of our family occasions and celebrations would normally revolve around eating out and we’re notorious for arriving somewhere ‘just in time for lunch’. Lockdown has made it hard to make special occasions feel special – it’s hard to get that ‘treat’ vibe isn’t it?

One way we can still feel like we’re spoiling ourselves is by getting a takeaway and so this week I treated my Mum to a takeaway via Foodhub. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Competition Finder

I don’t know about you, but over the last year my life feels like it has got smaller and smaller.

I not unhappy for the most part, but it has shrunk down until now it’s really just about food, drink, walks, cats and Instagram stories. And let’s face it, even some of the walks and the food is really just about the stories.

It’s quite an exposing state of being when you think about it. I imagine it like a series of concentric circles, with the furthest out ones being all of the things you do and the people you see that you normally engage with the least – in my case gym classes, children* etc – and gradually each layer has been peeled away until we are just left as these exposed inner cores, clinging onto the few keys things that make us human at least. I feel like the connections I do have with people are more real – there’s no small talk, you both know you’re in that park for a reason, so you get right down to it.

Food has become a much more significant pleasure too. I’ve taken to just eating whatever I want, whenever I want, but in an almost spiritual way. I don’t just munch on snacks for fun – I take my time choosing, and I savour the experience. When your pleasures have become fewer, they deserve taking more seriously.

What I do miss about food though is constantly being the one to have to cook it and wash up. Eating out has always been one of my best things, hence brunch club, and I miss the novelty of something new, of not being sure what something is going to look and taste like until it’s on your fork and in your mouth.

If I had endless wealth and lived somewhere cosmopolitan then a substantial part of my diet would be takeaways, but as I didn’t even qualify for any freelance financial support, it seems a bit foolhardy to spend all of the money I’m saving on my mortgage repayment holiday on satay chicken sticks and king prawns with cashew nuts.

I’m rambling. I apologise.

The point of this post is that I’ve teamed up with the competition website Competition Finder to provide you with some lockdown food inspiration and relaxation in the form of a selection of easy recipes and £50 TO SPEND ON TAKEAWAY. View Post

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Advertisement feature – the best homemade chicken korma with Simply Cook

Chicken korma recipe kit Simply Cook

Things are a bit slow on the ‘eating out with friends’ front at the moment aren’t they? (She says, making the understatement of the year.)

It’s a shame, because eating out with friends is one of my best hobbies. If 2020 has made me realise anything it’s that I’m actually a lot more sociable than I give myself credit for. I do enjoy my own company, but I miss seeing people so much.

What’s surprised me the most is that I miss everybody, not just good friends, who I’ve made an effort to see when I can, but all of those other people, the people you maybe only see once or twice a month at events or groups, but who you always enjoy a chat with. These kind of small interactions seem inconsequential but they have a big impact.

And I miss the food. I’m not going to pretend it’s ALL about the people.

I miss eating things I’ve never tried before and having someone else cook it AND wash up for me. I miss trying new flavours and generally eating things that aren’t chicken nuggets and jacket potatoes and spaghetti Bolognese. You get stuck in a rut when you’re at home all the time don’t you? Eating out isn’t just good fun in itself, it inspires me to cook different things at home too.

Today though I did COOKING! Hoorah!

I made a Moghul chicken korma using a spice kit from Simply Cook. There are three individual pots of specially blended pastes, powders and potions* each in recipe box, along with a recipe card with a handy tear off shopping list so you know exactly what to buy to create your delicious, restaurant quality dinner. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Tesco

Tesco bauble cake

There’s no getting away from the fact that Christmas is going to be a little different this year. There’ll be no crowds of people gathered around the bandstand performing hearty renditions of Oh Come All Ye Faithful, no jostling for position at the front of the mulled wine queue on a group trip to the Christmas market, none of those extra things that give you those warm, festive feelings.

However, Christmas is far from cancelled.

If anything, it’s been wonderful to see the number of people jumping on the festive bandwagon early, getting the tree up, tucking into mince pies and bejazzling the front of their homes like they’re auditioning for Deck The Halls. If any year needed us to raise the festive bar it’s 2020. View Post

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I may not have quite gotten around to learning to play the trombone or turning my vagina into a bespoke candle or whatever it is that Gwyneth Paltrow would have us do at times like these, but if there is one lockdown activity that I’ve well and truly bought into it’s banana bread.

In fact I was on the banana bread wagon even BEFORE the pandemic, but then we’ve always known I’m a trend setter haven’t we? ‘Finger on the pulse’ is a phrase close family often use to describe my approach to fashion and current affairs.

Just to keep ahead of the lockdown banana bread curve then, I decided to crank things up a notch last week and take my banana bread exploits to the next level. I did this in two ways.

First, I added chocolate chips. I know, mind blown. You can literally add chocolate chips to ANYTHING and it’s better. I feel like you could add chocolate chips to a bath and it would be a win.

Second, I went MINI. Everyone knowns that making normal sized things SMALL is a sure fire way to improve them. Think of all the things you know and love and imagine teeny tiny versions of them. It’s adorable isn’t it? It doesn’t work with wine, but that might be the exception.

Bish bash bosh – mini chocolate banana loaves. We’re saved! November’s lockdown is going to be okay! (I mean it’s still shit, but at least you’ll have cake and something to do for half an hour.)

To make mini banana loaves you will need:

  • 140g soft margarine
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 140g self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Splosh of vanilla essence
  • Big handful of chocolate chips
  • 2-3 ripe bananas.
  • Extra chocolate and banana chips for decoration should you feel so inclined

Whisk everything except the chocolate chips and bananas up together into a delicious looking cake batter. Stir in the bananas and the chocolate and transfer to a tin.

You’re done.

That was easy wasn’t it? I had quite fancy eggs, with brightly coloured yolks, so my mixture was quite a vibrant yellow colour. Fitting for banana bread I thought.

easy banana bread recipe View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Thorner’s Farm Shop

Okay, so not just pies, but that’s the beauty of this giveaway from Thorner’s Farm Shop – if you did want to spend your whole £50 prize on pies then you could. No one’s judging. Their pies are award-winning after all.

The idea behind this competition is that we all need a bit of a pick me up don’t we? Winter is coming, the nights are drawing in, (I’ve banged on so much about dark evenings on Instagram that I’m boring even myself), and really, a pie WOULD HELP. There’s no getting away from it, when the weather turns nasty, a cheeky cheese and leek pie can do wonders.

Jon Thorner's pie competition

(Confession: this is a picture that I pinched from the Thorner’s website because even though they sent me a pie to try, amongst other delicious treats, I got over-excited and ate it before I remembered I was meant to take a picture. Also this is way better than anything I could take, so.)

Although the Thorner’s pies are award-winning and delicious in every way, they are about much more than pies. They are a butcher, so sell all kinds of fresh meats, as well as deli meats. When I was little my mum says that, in a bid to get me to eat, she used to leave little plates of ham and cucumber around the house so I would happen upon them and eat them, so I know a good ham when I eat it.

They sell cheese, quiches, fruit and vegetables, even fresh ready meals, and the beauty of it is that it’s all online, so you get all the wholesomeness of a farm shop without having to get your shoes muddy.

They also make cakes, and although generally I’d consider myself more of a homemade biscuit girl, the toffee apple slice is a think of magic and wonder. Put one of these in your virtual basket and you won’t regret it.

(I also make an exception for this ricotta and raspberry cake but you do have to make that yourself, sorry. Unless you want to pay me to make it and bring it to your house.) View Post

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