In association with Red Letter Days

When you think Red Letter Days gift experiences, what do you think?

I have to admit that until a few weeks ago my first thought would have been package spa breaks and track days. Not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things – I like a lounge in a sauna and prosecco lunch as much as the next person – but Red Letter Days is about so much more than that, as I found out when Red Letter Days asked me to choose an experience to, well, experience. 

I started off with a browse, which takes a while as there is a LOT to browse. Honestly, I challenge you NOT to find a Christmas gift for just about anyone in your life. I was tempted initially by the London theatre and dinner packages – if you like comedy then I would DEFINITELY recommend this offer for The Play That Goes Wrong – it’s such good fun. Two tickets plus dinner for two for just £109, which is a bit of a bargain.

I liked some of the adrenaline activities too – how cool would it be to take a vintage Tiger Moth over Stonehenge or to undertake a private investigator surveillance mission at London Paddington? (Even though I’m 40 now I still want to believe that one day I will turn into Nancy Drew, the sassy teen detective.)

And then there’s all the food and drink options – I lingered for a long time over the bottomless gin and tonic afternoon tea.

In the end though I opted for a cookery course at River Cottage HQ in Devon. It was well timed for me as I’ve been in a massive cooking rut recently and we’ve been consuming unhealthy amounts of frozen chicken products. I’ve been trying to be more creative, but sometimes you need a bit of a kick up the bum to reignite an interest in something or to make you feel more confident in your own abilities.

Booking the course with my Red Letter Days voucher was easy – there were instructions on the voucher and then contact details for the venue, easy peasy. I packed my selection of Tupperware for leftovers, as advised, and set out for Devon.

I knew the day was going to go well when one of the first things we were told was that there was a bar and that if we wanted any drinks brought to us during the day we just had to ask Steve, and he would sort us out. Needless to say Steve sorted me out with a couple of lovely gin and tonics – the spa day vibe without even needing to hoist myself into a swimming costume.

The one day River Cottage course covers a whole range of cooking techniques, from bread-making to fish filleting, so we started off by getting our dough on the go.

Red Letter Days cookery courses View Post

Although it might be controversial, I’ve always considered myself more of a biscuit than a cake kind of girl. Presented with a slice of red velvet I’d be a bit ‘meh’, but give me a packet of chocolate hobnobs and I’m well away.

One of my very favourite biscuits is the bourbon.

The bourbon has so much going for it – it’s chocolatey, but with that slightly salty edge of an Oreo. It has the crunchy biscuit texture, but a creamy middle, and it’s a sandwich biscuit, so basically two biscuits disguised as one. If you’re prepared to be a bit disgusting, split your bourbon and noisily lick the cream then you can make a bourbon last a long time.

homemade bourbon biscuits

Now you’re probably looking at that picture and thinking ‘hang on a minute, those kind of LOOK like bourbons, but also they don’t? What’s going on?’

Well, I MADE THEM. I know. Get me. View Post

Last night I tweeted about how I had just washed down a multivitamin with a gin and tonic. I was pretty proud of myself for achieving such balance in my life. Very zen.

Legend of the Lost replied saying that it counted as a lifestyle cocktail.

‘A lifestyle cocktail??,’ I said. ‘Did you just make that up? Please tell me it’s not a real thing. (If it is I’m doing a blog post about it.)’

‘Just made it up,’ he replied, ‘I own it! But you may borrow it. Because you’re my favourite.’

So I am. Right now.

Here are six lifestyle cocktails I came up with that are basically guilt-free because they are just so goddamn good for you.

Cheers!

Vodka and Berocca

This was a suggestion from Nathan Dennis and it seems totally legit to me. No messing about – right to the good stuff. The only trouble is coming up with a name for it. I was trying to think of something that merged the names, Brangelina style, but all I could think of was The Verruca. I’m not sure it will catch on, except in swimming pools.

I’m picturing it a bit like this, but with bits of crumbled Berocca on the rim of the glass?

lifestyle cocktails

Photo by lindsay Cotter on Unsplash

View Post

There comes a point in your life when you start to get excited when you see NEW things happening. A few months ago for example my neighbours opposite me had a new boiler installed, and I spent quite a lot of time at the kitchen window casually making a cup of tea or washing up or just sort of standing.

‘They’re bringing out the old boiler now,’ I’d shout into Belle in the living room.

She would answer me with silence because she is 16 and hasn’t reached the age yet where she cares about anything boring.

I’ve had a similar sense of excitement over the last couple of months every time I have driven through Taunton and seen work progressing on the new Hubbox restaurant. The space that it’s taken over has been empty for a long time, (I knew it as Wimpy, which I think says a lot), and it’s in a pretty prominent location, so it’s lovely to see it coming back to life.

We went along to their launch night a couple of weeks ago and were blown away by the size and the scale of the restaurant. They’ve knocked through into what was also the shop next door to Wimpy, so there’s masses of space downstairs and a first floor too, which has a slightly more casual vibe, with some comfy looking sofas and armchairs that would be ideal for day time coffees and sandwiches.

(My friend Paul did a little tour video on the opening night, in which I wave, so if you want a proper look inside then that’s worth a watch.) View Post

In association with Red Tractor

Hoorah! It’s here! October! I can now officially start to get excited about Christmas, (possibly in secret as I’m not sure everyone is ready for it), eat warm apple crumble for breakfast, and generally embrace the deliciousness of autumn. Cooked apples and hot pudding are about as autumnal as it gets without actually putting on a halloween costume, which I why I choose to make an apple tarte tatin for this blog post.

apple tarte tatin with rough puff pastry

Let’s skip back a bit though, to an email I had a little while ago from the people at Red Tractor.

‘The Red Tractor logo is ace,’ they said, (I’m paraphrasing*), ‘but we want more people to know more about it! Can you help?’

‘Of course!’ I said, rolling up my virtual sleeves and putting on my imaginary pinny. ‘Show me the meats!’

‘Well that’s just it,’ they said, ‘it’s not just about meat…’ View Post

In association with Planted

‘If I make some chocolate pancakes with a peanut butter sauce,’ I asked Belle one day this week, ‘will you eat them?’

‘Will I eat some chocolate pancakes,’ she said, looking like she might have misunderstood the question, ‘if you make them for me right now?’

‘Yes,’ I said.

‘Well yes,’ she said, ‘obviously.’

And so I did.

dairy free chocolate pancake recipe

I’d been trying to think up something to make with the cartons of Planted I’d been sent to try out, and who doesn’t love a chocolate pancake?

If you tend to look for dairy free alternatives, Planted could be worth trying the next time you’re shopping. It currently comes in two flavours – oat drink with banana and coconut drink with cocoa – and two more flavours are on the way along with smaller, ready to drink cartons.

Both flavours are vegan approved by the Vegetarian Society, and are fortified with calcium (for maintenance of normal teeth & bones), vitamin D (for absorption of calcium & phosphorous) and vitamin B₁₂ (for normal function of the immune system). They also tick the conservation box – a donation of 2p for every 1L carton sold goes to the Woodland Trust, the UK’s largest woodland conservation charity.

How to make dairy free chocolate pancakes

These dairy free chocolate pancakes are super quick and easy to make. All you need for the pancake mix is: View Post