Do you have a favourite family recipe? We have a few. ‘Fridge pasta’ is one of them, which consists of pasta, plus whatever we can find in the fridge. ‘Crap from the freezer’ is another favourite. I think you can guess what that involves, suffice to say a lot of things tend to be covered in breadcrumbs. This easy spaghetti bake is another one.

When Bee came home a few months ago for her 20th birthday, she had a request. “Can we have the thing with the noodles?” she asked. I knew what she meant. It’s a dish I made up when she was small and we were poor, that basically involves cooking up some noodles, mixing them with a tin of condensed tomato soup, covering the lot with cheese, and baking in the oven.

It sounds like it might be a bit gross, but it’s actually amazing. The noodles sort of swell up and form this wonderful consistency, and you can pretty much slice the thing that comes out of the oven, like a pie. Once you start eating it, it’s hard to stop. I mean like REALLY hard. It’s one of those dishes that you find yourself making an excuse to go back into the kitchen for, just to get a bit on a fork while no one is looking.

The beauty of the dish though is that you can customise it according to your own tastes and what you have in the house. Sometimes, if I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll add some fried onion, or maybe some sweetcorn. The world is your oyster. Today I thought I’d fancy it up a bit and turn it into an easy spaghetti bake using actual fresh ingredients rather than just a can of old soup.

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This review has been written by my fiancé, in lieu of him having to cook us tea…

When I moved in with Jo and Belle, I was adamant that I wanted to do my fair share around the house.

“You can cook supper, Jo said, almost before I had finished asking what she’d like me to do, “I’ve always hated having to think about that”.

Sure. What’s so hard about that? I felt I’d got off lightly. I started perusing the internet for wholesome yet tasty recipes, and even started ploughing my way through recipes in a new cook book. What a fool. Cut to a month or so later, and the end of a stressful day at work and I’ve walked home through the rain. I get through the front door, peel off my wet jacket and put my bag down.

“Hello”, I say, wearily.

“What’s for tea?” Belle asks, without raising her eyes from her iPad.

“I’m not quite sure yet. I’ll have a think about it”.

I’m met with a look that could have killed. It tells me how ridiculous it is that I haven’t been planning some culinary masterpiece since the second I finished wrapping up sandwiches for packed lunches that morning.

Jo is smiling. “Welcome to my world” she whispers, and with that, I understand.

It’s not so much the cooking, it’s the thinking. I’m well aware that there are far worse aspects of parenting, that I’ve spectacularly avoided or side-stepped, but I do get why this is something Jo can do without.

Recently, there has been a spurt of new restaurants opening in Taunton and we’ve been lucky enough to try some of them out. It’s popular with everyone in the house. Belle, because the food is prettier, more exciting and nicer than mine, Jo, also because of the above and because it’s an outing, and me – because I don’t have to think about it. 

The Italian chain, Ask, has been coming to Taunton for a while, and as the evening of our free meal approached, I wondered how they could possibly have turned Taunton’s Old Post Office into a restaurant. Surely it wasn’t big enough, and how could they have got rid of that rather soulless feeling?

I don’t know quite how to articulate how good a job they’ve done. Firstly, it doesn’t feel like another Italian chain. The design spec and the quality of the finish is superb. We’ve been to a couple of places recently that looked okay, but after a few minutes we started to list the tiny glitches and faults. Not so in Ask. Everything from the flooring to the bar tiles, to the glasses to the cutlery, was stylishly put together, without feeling like a formula that you’d find in every other town in the country. It feels like Mad Men meets Breakfast at Tiffany’s meets glorious Technicolor. In fact, it feels like Jo designed the place, and that’s the highest praise I can give.

 

The girls are looking at the menu, which is varied and well balanced. I’m so hungry I would be happy with pretty much any dish on the menu. Belle has her serious face on – after all, these decisions are very important. We choose a variety of dishes (and wine) from the menu so that we can say we’ve tried most types of dish – fish, pasta, meats and of course, pizza.

Bucket of wine at @askitalian – don’t mind if I do. A photo posted by Josephine Middleton (@slummysinglemummy) on

 

Belle is my pizza hero. We have the same tastes in what we like on them, and she always leaves me some of hers. Recently, she created a pizza especially for me, and it is in the top five meals I’ve ever eaten. Luckily, Ask didn’t let Belle or the rest of us down. The food was delicious. On any other day of the week there is no way we’d have tackled pudding, but for the sake of research we felt we had to indulge.

*happy sigh* A photo posted by Josephine Middleton (@slummysinglemummy) on

 

Before our outing, I thought Taunton didn’t need any more Italian restaurants. I left knowing that Taunton did need this Ask. It’s bright and friendly, and the food was delicious. We’ll definitely be going back, perhaps the next time I forget to think about what is for supper at home. Either that, or when the girls can face no more of my cooking.

Thank you to Ask for inviting us as their guests for a meal.

 

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A guest post from my fiancé, as he knows much more about wine than me.

wedding wines

Now, no sniggering at the back, please – if I ask you what you think of when you think of the morning after a wedding reception, what springs to mind? The DJ was rubbish? Who managed to get gravy on my jacket? Who was it that I promised to give piano lessons to for free? Maybe that’s just me.

All of the above thoughts are probably coupled with a hangover, at varying levels of severity and intensity. Drink is a big part of weddings, and given that weddings are now more a test of endurance for guests than a short afternoon out, getting your wines right, and more importantly, getting them to match your budget, is key. Every wedding has guests with unquenchable thirsts, or ‘professional drinkers’, and we’re starting to think about how to keep them running like well oiled machines at our reception. View Post

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“A satisfying nibble that offers a little of what you fancy.”

No not that, don’t be rude, I’m talking about cheese.

It’s how The Laughing Cow describe their new Mini Cravings – little cubes of cheese with only 14 calories each. They’re tasty too, coming in a variety of strong flavours including garlic and herb, three cheese, (because one cheese is never enough), and ham and herb. They come in packs of 24, so even if you eat all them at once, (which isn’t really the idea), you can probably still pass it off as a light lunch.

mini cravings laughing cow

 

Looking at the picture I had a little flashback to soft cheese I used to eat as a child that came in a pack with different flavours – possible triangles in a wheel. Do you remember those, or did I dream them?

Anyway, I was thinking about the whole idea of cravings, (cue seamless link into something else), and that whole idea of ‘a little bit of what you fancy’, and it reinforced for me how important it is to have things in your life that you do for yourself, cravings that you indulge. It could be a cube of ham and herb cheese, or it could be something bigger, like taking a few days away from everything once a year to reflect on your goals, ambitions and achievements.  View Post

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Here are two things I love:

  • Trying new things
  • Cheese

I was pretty much guaranteed to have a good time then when I visited the Boursin Sensorium at the Alexandra Palace Foodie Festival last weekend, to have a go on their Oculus Rift Boursin experience.

Boursin Sensorium View Post

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Mornflake Cereals

I love a day out.

I particularly love a day out where I’m promised free food, so I have to confess that the offer of a delicious breakfast in the middle of a beautiful oat field, swiftly followed by a tasty buffet lunch, went quite a long way to persuading me to take the trip up to Crewe to the home of Mornflake Cereal, to find out what goes in to producing a box of oats or bag of granola.

I wasn’t disappointed, as you can see: View Post

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Hello! It’s Bee again. I know what you’re thinking, thank God, a break from all the wedding talk, time to talk about something real, something relevant.

You may remember my last post about pizza and you may remember ordering a Domino’s right after reading it. Anyway, continuing along the theme of delicious but probably not that healthy foods, I’m going to be talking to you about Jelly Beans!

So if any of you read my actual food blog, you will probably know that I have taken a little break recently due to starting a new job and moving house and all that, basically becoming a fully grown adult over night (terrifying). Well on the last day of living in halls at uni I checked my postbox just in case someone had sent me something, although I wasn’t expecting anything.

The reception desk lady proceeded to bring out the most humongous parcel. I was excited but also slightly annoyed that that was one more box I had to pack into my friend’s mum’s car and then carry up two flights of stairs to the new flat. I got it up to my almost empty room and when I opened it I felt about five years old. It was mounds and mounds of jelly beans from The Jelly Bean Factory, in boxes, tubs, packets, tubes and glass jars. I worked out that there must have been about 4kg of jelly beans in that box. It was glorious. View Post

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It’s a bit of a standing joke in our family, at my mum’s expense, (sorry mum), that her favourite way to serve Boursin is ‘on a knife’. You’re thinking about it now and salivating aren’t you? There is something about Boursin that is just so wonderfully decadent. That advertising campaign they used to run, with the husky French voice – Du pain, du vin, du Boursin – will stay with me until I die, as a symbol of what I wanted my life to be like when I was a proper grown up lady.

I have a rather unhealthy habit come the evening of instinctively reaching for something to snack on while I watch TV, and that something is normally sweet. Lately though I’ve been doing my best to resist the sugar cravings and when I really do want to treat myself, I try to make it something savoury instead.

The last few months have been really busy for me work wise, which is great, but it does mean I’m working hard and am quite often travelling about, so when I get home and the phones, tablets and laptops have been put away, I want that time with my little family, or occasionally on my own, to be special, and all about us. I consider myself very lucky, as Belle still wants to spend time with us, and we love cuddling up on the sofa, watching the TV or a film, playing a game or just chatting about our day.

And for this sort of indulgent, quality time, you need snacks. View Post

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Today I have a guest post from my fiancé, because he knows about football and I wasn’t sure who Sir Geoff Hurst was. I did pose for the picture though:

Sir Goeff Hurst

Think of Mcdonald’s, and you’d be forgiven for not associating them with sport at grass roots level in the community. All right, you might think of their logo blazoned on sponsorship boards at every football World Cup in recent memory, but you probably wouldn’t think that they’re that heavily involved in getting children active and involved in their local football clubs.

We were pleasantly surprised too.

“Do you want to come with me to interview Sir Geoff Hurst? “ Jo asked, adding, “is that a thing?” to confirm her understandable ignorance to English footballing history. I don’t blame her for this – mine is sketchy too, but it’s always nice to have superior knowledge to Jo when the majority of the time, on most subjects, I’m metaphorically in her rear-view mirror. View Post

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Pizza!!

Hey guys, it’s Bee again. Did you miss me? Today I am here to talk to you all about pizza! The food we know and love. And not just any pizza, but delivered pizza. More specifically, Dominos! Yay!

Delivered pizza is basically the biggest treat you can get in our family. We never quite know when the blessed day is going to come around. Sometimes it is a special occasion, sometimes it is a random rainy Sunday, but every single time it is all we ever dreamed and more.

This is particularly true for my little sister. Belle LIVES for delivered pizza, it’s her favourite meal ever. One night for her of deliciousness and not having to fight about which vegetables she will and will not be eating. In fact, the sweetcorn that she has on her Hawaiian pizza is pretty much the only vegetable she will eat without making some kind of comment. Therefore, pizza makes not only her happy, but also the rest of us, who want to eat our dinner in peace. View Post

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I’ve been a member of Hestercombe Gardens on and off ever since Belle was born. When she was little, it was our go to place for meet ups; many an hour have been whiled away on weekday afternoons looking at the ducks, hiding in the orangery or paddling in wellies in the streams.

Food at Hestercombe

I walk around the formal gardens now and I can still picture Belle and her friend Ella as toddlers, propped up against the side of the fountain, chubby hands in the water. I can’t quite get my head around how tiny they must have been.  View Post

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One of the most tedious tasks for me as a parent is cooking. It’s not so much the cooking itself, it’s more the planning of it – trying to think of something new and interesting every single bloody day, only then to have it rejected by a fussy child, gets rather dispiriting after, say, 20 years.

Enter fiancé, stage left.

(You see? I did it! I called him fiancé!)

For the last month or so, my fiancé has taken over in the kitchen. He does all of the cooking, and even the washing up when Belle’s away. I’m barely even allowed to make myself a cup of tea. It is absolute bliss getting to four o’clock every day and not having to start fretting about what I’m going to cook.

A couple of weeks ago we were treated to a food delivery from Marley Spoon, one of these food box companies where you’re sent a recipe and the exact ingredients. I love the idea of this as it’s such a pain buying things like herbs, spices and oils for recipes, when you know you’re only going to use a tablespoon and then have them sat in the cupboard for years. View Post

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