This is the fourth in my “mini blogs” series to spread the word of the amazing local hospitality businesses in our area who will be offering takeaway/delivery services over the coming weeks. I wanted to share my experiences of those I have had this year in condensed write ups to support the industry and also show all the amazing treats we have to choose from!
It is always super exciting when you hear of a new restaurant opening its doors near you. Seeing all the hype on social media and reading press releases to learn a little bit more about what you can expect from this new venture. It becomes even more exciting when you learn that this new restaurant will be offering something totally different to what our ‘Little White Town’ is used to, making it unique, as well as brand spanking new. Time for an extremely excited food blogger (that would be me) to dig out my sombrero because I am going to Mexico! Well, El Toro Loco would eventually be coming to us due to current travel restrictions, but it was pretty much the same thing.
Bright in Colour and Taste
I was lucky enough to visit El Toro Loco, located at Affinity Devon Shopping Outlet, in mid September before lockdown 2.0 after they opened their doors and released their crazy bull upon North Devon in August. Obviously no wild animals started roaming their way around our streets; El Toro Loco means “crazy bull”. Every day is a school day! The decoration of the restaurant was a feast for the eyes and put you straight into a festival fiesta mood; huge day of the dead themed murals, expertly painted in the most vibrant of colours, the perfect match for the equally vibrant tasting and looking food.
Warmly welcomed by a friendly waitress and Mexican inspired background music, the menu was vast with many meat, fish and vegetarian options for me to indecisively choose between and a simplistic cocktail menu for me to immediately decide upon a raspberry daiquiri to buy more thinking time. Cog turning completed and appetite wetted by the sweet taste of raspberries and a glorious kick of rum, the spice had arrived in the form of a generous abundance of plump prawns plated upon a beautiful sky blue plate. The prawns were juicy, having soaked up all of the five spice coating they had been roasted in, making my tongue tingle with happiness, albeit grateful for the creamy avocado and lime dressing to soothe my mouth, perfect timing for the show stopping swordfish.
Anyone ever visualise something to then have your amazing mind built picture totally blown away in real life? *Puts hand up*. The grilled swordfish kebab did just that to the masterpiece I had built in my foodie head. Towering above the colourful pots of freshly made salsa, chunky guacamole, smooth sour cream and buttery corn spiked with chilli flakes, the kebab hung in all its glory. Cubes of delicate swordfish were layered with green, yellow and red peppers and onion to form the best looking kebab I have ever seen. The swordfish was soft and flaked easily with the charcoal grill flavour ever present, along with vegetables torched by the flames to become sweeter and slightly soft. A sight to get everyone looking in the restaurant, but it was all for me!
Mexico at Home
Deciding what takeaway to treat yourself to on your lockdown birthday is a difficult decision, but one that was made easier when realising I could bring that vibrant and spicy El Toro Loco experience, cocktail and all, to my very own sofa whilst again wearing my most comfy pyjamas (the mini blog theme continues). Using their ridiculously easy app, the restaurant favourites were described just as they were in-house, along with some brilliant extra drink options (indecisive cocktail decision this time round). Pre-ordered and paid for on Wednesday afternoon to avoid disappointment, Friday evening between approximately 7:30 and 8:30pm could not come soon enough.
*Doorbell rings*. I was like a kid in a Mexican sweet shop, so excited to have had the opportunity to order this unique takeaway that was now available to us in our quaint town. Opening each white package, you could smell the spices instantly and were comforted by the same stand out Mexican flag themed paper each dish was lovingly placed upon. To kick the birthday spice train off? Polenta Calamari; a super crunchy coating encasing soft, translucent squid, paired with a power packed garlic and lime sour cream. I could have eaten trays of it; garlic breath would not be a turn off! The next spice stop on our Mexican journey? Prawn Chimichanga; those five spiced juicy prawns made their way into a soft flour tortilla, cuddled up with flavoured rice, sweet pepper pieces, earthy beans and melted cheese. Our journey had made its way to texture central, with the cheese giving the indulgent edge. A side of veg? Yes please! (If that means nothing to you, you haven’t read my previous blogs, then all will become clear). Grilled corn with chilli butter and a sprinkle of coriander. Who knew corn could taste THAT GOOD. Soft and sweet golden corn nuggets, so sweet they were almost creamy thanks to the dousing of chilli butter they had been swimming in during cooking. It made me realise that I need to up my butter game when cooking corn at home. All hail the butter!
You can imagine the fluffy pyjama wearing food happiness bubble I was in during the approximate time of 7:46 and 8:20pm and that had nothing to do with the fabulous rum kick of the raspberry daiquiri. The bubble almost burst with too much excitement when I dived into the very kind and unexpected addition of complimentary Churros. Was this the best birthday ever? It was close, I give you that. The shaped dough pieces were warm in temperature as well as the cinnamon spice that adorned the sugar coating. Each deep fried piece dived their way generously into the pot of glossy and sweet chocolate sauce that accompanied. Silence fell upon the house. Leanne was in her happy little food bubble.
De nada El Toro Loco for two very happy and wonderful spicy trips to Mexico! Now to perfect my corn on the cob in a pool of melted butter.
This is the third in my “mini blogs” series to spread the word of the amazing local hospitality businesses in our area who will be offering takeaway/delivery services over the coming weeks. I wanted to share my experiences of those I have had this year in condensed write ups to support the industry and also show all the amazing treats we have to choose from!
If there is one positive thing to have come out of this whole lockdown life, it is the rise of sweet treats being delivered straight to your hungry door! The thought of a parcel full of cake sitting on my doorstep is something dreams are made of (mine are anyway) and is enough to make my sweet tooth literally fall out of my mouth, hopefully landing into a slab of cheesecake. To be more precise, cheesecake created by Sasha from Baked with Love.
The Kind Gift of Chocolate
I am going to confess early that I have never really been a massive cheesecake person (shock horror). I am not totally sure why, but it is probably to do with the fact the words “cheese” and “cake” have been combined and that gives me the creeps. However, when you receive a lovely message on Instagram from local Bideford baker Sasha, also known as Baked with Love, gifting you one of her chocolate bake boxes, it is a perfect opportunity to banish those creepy cheesecake feelings. Spoiler alert, her Terry’s Chocolate Orange cheesecake did just that.
Terry’s Chocolate Orange Cheesecake
It was a quiet Saturday morning at the beginning of October when cheesecake came knocking at my door, well, Sasha did, with a large brown box in her hands, filled with goodies and adorned with a simplistic and colourful label. Despite already having eaten breakfast, the delivery was immediately opened by my careful yet eager hands. My senses were hit by a view of pure indulgence and the strong scent of citrus; Terry had entered the kitchen.
The first cheesecake component that caught my eye was the thick biscuit base, golden in colour and the crushed pieces of biscuit exposing a crumbly texture. This biscuit filled foundation was luxuriously buttery, held itself together when pierced with my fork before being knocked down by my bulldozer teeth into crumbling fragments. Like any strong foundation, the immensely satisfying biscuit base held up the main structure; a robust layer of thick chocolate orange speckled cheese based topping, that was as deep as the box was wide (slight exaggeration, but you get my drift; it was DEEP). The opulent cheese layer was rich and creamy whilst being powerful in that famous chocolate orange flavour. The citrus cut through the smooth, velvety cheese and the chocolate pieces that supplied the orange twang provided extra texture and crunch. Combined with the buttery base along with the crafted decoration of brightly coloured chocolate shavings, a swirl of whipped cream and half moon crescent of Terry’s chocolate, I wanted to knock the whole cheesecake building down in just a few bites. This was not a creepy cheese and cake fusion!
It was amazing the chocolate box of dreams lasted approximately three days, especially as the towering cheesecake was accompanied by three glorious chocolatey chums: a light and fluffy chocolate fudge cake; a sticky and fudgy Rolo brownie; and a chewy Nutella stuffed chocolate chip cookie. A chocolate lovers dream, most definitely baked with love and certainly the kind of parcel my sweet tooth would love to see on my doorstep again. Thank you Sasha 🙂
Sasha is raising money for FORCE in memory of her Mum, Barbara. Click here to read her story.
This is the second in my “mini blogs” series to spread the word of the amazing local hospitality businesses in our area who will be offering takeaway/delivery services over the coming weeks. I wanted to share my experiences of those I have had this year in condensed write ups to support the industry and also show all the amazing treats we have to choose from!
This mini blog series would not be complete without a pizza based write up because I LOVE PIZZA! If I were to find myself in the unfortunate situation of being stuck on a remote desert island with only one food choice, pizza would definitely be right up there. The stunning, hand-made pizzas from the Pig and Olive would be my ultimate choice. Located on the legendary pebbles of Westward Ho! beach, the Pig and Olive are an award winning team of stonebaked pizza experts, who have been trained by world pizza champion Marco Fuso! If that wasn’t enough, they also rear their own pigs, making their name unique, and their pizzas, I can confirm, ridiculously delicious.
The Pig Pizzas
As with any takeaway treat, each slice of hot, indulgent pizza (cooked at 450c, hot they most certainly are!) is best enjoyed straight out of the lovingly stamped box, on the sofa, wearing cosy pyjamas (if you read my first mini blog you will notice a theme emerging). These Pig and Olive pizzas deserve your full attention, which your senses will thank you for. Your nose will be hit by the warm smell of fresh, hand-made dough before you even lift the lid of the cardboard pizza vessel, along with the aromatic scents of your chosen toppings. The grand opening reveals a feast for the eyes: a golden, leopard spotted crust, perfect for dipping into their home-made crust dips, that acts as Hadrian’s wall encasing a smooth, vibrant red tomato base, adorned with your chosen toppings. A feast for the eyes even Picasso would be jealous of.
Sitting comfortably on your sofa with your eyes and nose now brimming with excitement, it is time to put your mouth out of its misery and put pizza into it. Lifting up the delicate slice of pizza that slightly droops with a string of gooey mozzarella cheese pulling from the rest of the pizza, that first bite gives your taste buds everything it needs in one go (I am most definitely not dribbling right now). The thin base is slightly chewy and moist where the sweet and powerfully flavoured tomato sauce has soaked into the dough (I apologise for the use of the ‘m’ word to those who cringe at that adjective, like me). The lightness of the freshly made base is contrasted by the thicker, springy, slightly crunchy crust hosting a pizza party of textures between your molars, whilst encasing a white layer of rich and creamy mozzarella cheese. Now the fun really starts, toppings galore to pimp your pizza.
Perfect Personalised Pizza Toppings
No matter what toppings you choose, the Pig and Olive carefully balance and distribute each topping to allow each flavour to shine and burst in every glorious pizza filled bite. My ‘go to’ Pig and Olive pizza is spinach and mushroom and is a veggie delight, even if you are not vegetarian. The earthy flavours of sliced mushrooms and deeply green wilted spinach work perfectly with the indulgent cheese and sweetness of tomato. However, during lockdown 1.0, I took the humble spinach and mushroom up a level, with some wonderful additions the Pig and Olive team offer. First, garlic that was soft, but punchy in flavour, and tasted amazing with its perfect partner, the mushroom. Second, fresh basil for a kick of freshness and a herb that I (personally) think needs to be involved in every pizza occasion. Lastly, artichoke pieces that were soft and nutty in flavour. It was a personalised pizza triumph.
This was not my first Pig and Olive pizza experience (no surprise there) and it will not be my last (also not surprising). Their signature pizza named ironically the “Pig and Olive” pairs soft and rich pulled pork made from their own reared pigs, alongside slightly salty black olives, giving a combination that tastes fantastic and a choice I will definitely make again.
With an app and website that are easy to use, you are able to create your own perfect pizza from the comfort of your sofa. Pizzas that can be made gluten and dairy free, as well as vegetarian and vegan alternatives too. Also, if perfect pizza wasn’t enough, they also provide desserts and low/no alcohol drinks to make the perfect pizza night in even more perfect.
It seemed only fitting to have the first blog with Chantal to be all about the first meal of the day we all enjoy; breakfast! Well, I hope everyone enjoys breakfast because Chantal and I LOVE breakfast! It is definitely one of our favourite meals of the day, along with brunch, as that is kind of the same thing! Breakfast is the best way to kick start any day of the week and it doesn’t have to be repetitive or boring. Within this breakfast filled blog, we want to provide not just ideas for balanced and tasty ways to start your day, but why the meal itself and the ingredients used are important as part of a healthier lifestyle. Besides, who says you can’t have cake for breakfast? I certainly don’t, and I think Chantal wouldn’t either!
Whether your breakfast time is super early at 6:00am when the sun is still rising, or a few hours later at 10:00am when the sun is (hopefully) shining in all its golden glory, it is a time your body will thank you for, as well as your stomach. During a restful night’s sleep when your body is repairing itself from the activities of the previous day and your brain processing all the wondrous things you experienced, they are also fasting. Depending on what time you sat down that evening to enjoy a tasty and well earned dinner, your body could be in a state of fasting for 12 hours. Just think, if you are lucky enough to enjoy an extra few hours in bed with a sneaky lie in, that period of fasting could be even longer! Blimey, that is a long time to not have eaten. This first meal of the day gives our sleepy metabolism the wake up call it needs and boosts our body to start burning energy straight away in the morning; breakfast literally breaks that fast.
Now I don’t know about anyone else, but if I do not break that fast, I can be a seriously hangry individual, and so can Chantal she has told me! Can you imagine one of her body boost bootcamp classes if she was even the tiniest bit hangry? It doesn’t even bare thinking about and would probably turn that restful night’s sleep into a nightmare! Munching through a tasty breakfast gives us our first supply of energy for the day and helps to put us in a better mood, removing any danger of entering a state of hanger, phew! A filling brekkie will keep our sugar levels balanced, limit unnecessary snacking and, therefore, keep us full until lunchtime. To be honest, as soon as one meal is consumed, I immediately look forward to the next time I am able to shovel food into my mouth.
Finally, if opportunity allows, breakfast is a time for us to sit down with our partner, children, or the whole family to enjoy a meal together before the work and school day begins, or whatever you have planned for your day. Times of eating are not only times to savour and enjoy the food in front of us that has been lovingly prepared, but probably most importantly, a time to enjoy the food with those we love and share the moment with them; even better if you are able to prepare your meal together and have a bit of fun in the process! Preparing that breakfast is where creativity can commence.
All meals of the day are versatile in terms of ingredients, flavours and combinations, but breakfast can be easily associated with the same things, know what I mean? Such as a bowl of cereal, a piece of toast, some boiled eggs, a fry up, to name a few. Four great ways to start the day, but after a while of the same thing, we want a breakfast with a difference and so do our bodies! Adding variety to a meal keeps our brain engaged and our bodies swimming in all the benefits of including certain food groups in our morning meal:
Whole grain options that are packed full of fibre, such as oats and whole grain bread.
Protein to keep you full for longer periods of time, such as eggs, milk and yoghurt. Proteins are the building blocks of the body to construct and repair muscles, tendons, organs and skin, as well as enzymes and hormones to help our bodies function efficiently and effectively.
Fruits and vegetables for extra nutrients, antioxidants and minerals.
Breakfast creativity can be as bold or simple as you like. Think building a cake flavoured oat bowl; stacking sweet and savoury pancakes; laying a silken egg scramble upon a glorious piece of sourdough toast; or biting into warm, soft bagels. You cannot forget the bagels, because I may have a current obsession over the (literal) holey bread, and Chantal loves them too. Sounds like a buffet breakfast I want to get involved in!
Whether it is a day you have more time to create a heart-warming breakfast, or a day that you have less time and need to prepare your meal the night before, in no way does breakfast ever need to be boring. Breaking this section down into my favourite staple ingredients, we will be building, stacking and scrambling our way to lifelong breakfast happiness, to fuel each day, and maybe even a fun and enjoyable workout with Chantal.
To say that I love eggs would be a total understatement. There is just something about them; they are quick to prepare, can be utilised within sweet or savoury dishes and are packed full of protein, along with healthy fats and nutrients, to supply and build our hard working bodies. Plus, if you are able to get your hands on local free range eggs, the bright, golden yolks are a thing of beauty, especially after being gently poached, when the orange yolk is revealed on that first cut like an exploding volcano of lava (aka: yolk porn!).
Eggs in whatever form (poached, scrambled, ‘Frylight’ fried, omelette) will provide a protein hit to your breakfast, to which you can add your whole grains and your fruit or vegetables. There is nothing better than a warm and comforting piece of wholegrain toast, or a slice of toasted sourdough if you’re feeling a bit more modern one morning! A couple of wholegrain rice cakes topped with creamy avocado and black pepper makes for a fantastic lighter option too that has a bit of crunch!
When it comes to adding the vegetables to your epic egg breakfast idea, pretty much no vegetable is out of the question, but there are some that just work so well as part of a balanced breakfast and they are the legumes we all know and love. A side of tomatoes, roasted in the oven brings out their natural sugars and will add a natural sweetness to any breakfast (particularly perfect on the side of a vegetarian grill up that you will see below). Keeping on the oven roasted theme, let’s throw mushrooms into the mix with their earthy flavour intensified by the heat of the oven. From a health perspective, roasting vegetables without any oil, in place of frying, can reduce the calories of the meal, which is great if that is part of your health goals and targets. Saying that, Frylight oil spray is a game changer and gives you that fried taste and texture without blowing your energy intake out of the park! It is also a brilliant way to wilt the green machine that is a pile of spinach, with an extra splash of water, into a breakfast sidekick or a vitamin filled pillow for your eggs.
Moving away from the oven and speeding things up, simply presenting your vegetables raw with a grind of salt and pepper provides untampered nutrients and fibre, that can even be prepared the night before. My ‘go to’ breakfast “side of veg” (salad is such a boring word) is the powerhouse duo of vibrant spinach and deep purple beetroot because they are already prepared and both go very well with eggs.
Crack your eggs into a bowl, add a splash of milk, a sprinkle of garlic salt if you have it and whisk together. Garlic salt is a game changer for scrambled eggs; it adds a savoury flavour and the salt also helps to break down the egg white so it will mix better.
Add a knob of olive oil spread, or quite a few sprays of Frylight to a pan.
Pour in the egg mixture and begin to intermittently stir through all the egg mixture and around the sides of the pan. Pop your bread in the toaster at this point too.
Remove your eggs from the heat when they are still slightly wet as the residual heat will continue to cook them.
Mix in lots of black pepper to finish.
Scrambled Egg Building Ideas (clockwise):
Toast of choice, spread with ricotta, topped with sun dried tomatoes and scrambled eggs.
Toast of choice topped with the classic smoked salmon scrambled eggs. Add the smoked salmon at the point you remove the eggs from the heat, as the heat will gentle cook the delicate salmon.
Toast of choice topped with Frylight mushrooms and chorizo scrambled eggs. When including chorizo, I use two slices of the pre packed thinly sliced chorizo.
Toast of choice topped with griddled halloumi and chorizo scrambled eggs. When including halloumi, I use lighter halloumi.
Toast of choice spread with smashed avocado and topped with uncooked halloumi, wilted spinach and scrambled eggs.
Toast of choice, spread with ricotta, topped with wilted spinach and scrambled eggs.
Toast of choice spread with smashed avocado, topped with wilted spinach and smoked salmon scrambled eggs. You will notice the small dollops of ketchup too!
Toast of choice spread with light hummus, topped with wilted spinach and scrambled eggs.
Chantal’s Favourite? Scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast with half a creamy avocado. Winner!
Filling Folded Omelettes:
Omelettes are a great vessel to get vegetables into the finished product itself and are also easily prepped the day before if you are short of time the following morning. A quick blast in the microwave and you have a 60 second breakfast!
Crack your eggs into a bowl with a splash of milk, a sprinkle of garlic salt and mix.
Add a few sprays of Frylight to a frying pan on a medium heat. Add your chosen vegetable/s, or even a bit of chorizo, to the pan to cook down. Mushrooms and spinach work really well.
When cooked, pour the egg mixture into the pan, and swirl the mixture to evenly distribute.
Allow the mixture to cook from the bottom up. You can also cover loosely with tin foil to help speed up the cooking process.
When almost cooked through you can add extra ingredients, such as a small grating of cheese (left), or pieces of smoked salmon (below left).
Use a spatula to fold the omelette in half and leave on the heat a little longer, depending on how cooked you like your omelette.
Left: Mushroom and smoked salmon. Middle: Spinach, halloumi and turmeric (turmeric is a brilliant, tasty spice that adds a subtle flavour to omelettes or scrambled eggs, as well as being an anti-inflammatory) . Right: Mushroom and cheese.
See, told you I love eggs! Versatile, easy, and extremely filling and tasty. Onto the oats!
Packed full of fibre and protein, oats are made for filling breakfasts. Whether that is a bowl of warm, creamy porridge, or overnight soaked oats, they can be made to taste like cake and feel a lot naughtier than they actually are! Just like our good friend the egg, oat bowls can be as simple or as pimped out as you like, with a wealth of combinations that is probably never ending. Combinations that can easily be made vegan and dairy free as well by swapping particular ingredients for your alternative favourites. A breakfast perfect for adding nutrients from an abundance of succulent fruits, extra protein, fibre and fats from nuts, seeds, milk and protein powder, and even the goodness of vegetables. Yes, you read that correctly. Bring on the carrots!
Perfect Porridge Ingredient Ideas:
Milk: Semi-skimmed milk makes for a super creamy oat bowl, but other substitutions are just as good. They all add a different flavour to make brilliant vegan and dairy free porridge and are great for a day you just fancy a change. Soya milk and almond milk are a particular favourite!
Frozen fruit: Frozen fruits are brilliant stirred into hot porridge. The heat defrosts them slightly so they break down into the warm, oaty mixture. They are also much cheaper than fresh fruit, but still hold all their natural goodness. Raspberries and blueberries are my ‘go to’ as they soften quickly and add so much colour!
Nuts and Seeds: Full of protein and healthy fats, nuts and seeds add texture and also add their own individual flavour. A small handful goes a long way as they can be very calorific. For larger nuts, such as almonds or hazelnuts, I like to break them down slightly in a pestle and mortar. Mix your nuts/seeds into the warm porridge or sprinkle on top.
Vegetables: Hear me out! Carrot and courgette are amazing when finely grated into porridge! Your porridge won’t taste like a vegetable patch, but they will add texture and a subtle flavour, as well as bags of extra fibre and nutrients.
Spices: An easy way to add flavour to your bowl. Cinnamon and mixed spice are my favourites as they taste warm and like Christmas! Gently sprinkle so to not over power the whole bowl.
Protein Powder: A simple way to add more protein to your day if you struggle to intake enough of it. With an abundance of flavours available, it can be really tasty too. Use a splash of milk or water to turn the powder into a paste before mixing into your oats, otherwise it will turn grainy!
Carrot cake topped with 0% fat Greek yoghurt (which is high in protein) – my favourite recipe!
Vanilla, blueberry, hazelnut and 0% fat Greek yoghurt. Defrosting fruits in the microwave makes them into a great topping!
Vanilla, seeds and caramel. I used a low calorie syrup to drizzle over the top!
Raspberry, vanilla and hazelnut.
Strawberry and honey. A drizzle of dark chocolate rich in antioxidants would elevate this combination even more!
Chantal’s ‘Go To’ Oats? Warm porridge with a teaspoon of peanut butter and all kinds of other nutritious additions; flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, blueberries, raspberries, goji berries or pomegranate seeds, to name a few!
All of these would make wonderful overnight oats as well for a quick breakfast at home or on the move. Just pop everything into a container and leave in the fridge overnight to work its magic.
Mind Blowing Bagels
One of Chantal’s favourite ‘go to’ breakfasts is a warm bagel topped to the high heavens and with my love of bagels too, bagel building had to be included! The choice of bagels out there makes for tough decisions; sweet, savoury and now bagel thins for a lighter option, and that’s even before thinking about toppings. Lightly toasting the bagel halves softens them slightly and enhances that crunchy, golden crust. As a more carbohydrate based breakfast, adorning proteins and nutrients upon the holey bread makes for a breakfast with a difference, and one that can be pre-prepared and packed ready for a busy day on the move.
Cinnamon and raisin bagel spread with crunchy peanut butter, topped with sliced fresh strawberries (my take on the American PB&J!).
Chantal’s Bagel Favourite? Philadelphia spread, topped with smoked salmon. Yum!
The best bit about bagels? Two halves mean you can satisfy both your sweet and savoury tooth. I will have both please!
Pancakes are not just for Shrove Tuesday, but they are one of those meals where I always think, “I should really make these more often”, and guess what, I never do. However, when pancake fever does happen, go all out and stack them high. Combinations galore, and easy substitutions to make them vegan and dairy free, they are a feast for the eyes and stomach, with all the food groups.
Oat Pancake Stacks:
Oats are a fabulous alternative to flour, packed full of fibre and protein and give more texture to the pancakes. Perfect for gluten free pancakes as well. Any oats work really well and if you have a food processor, blitzing the oats first will give a smoother batter and, therefore, pancake. Time to stack!
Above: Spiced banana pancakes stacked with a light chocolate spread between each layer, topped with 0% fat Greek yoghurt mixed with walnut pieces and fresh strawberries, a drizzle of honey, before adding more walnut pieces and strawberries: a recipe with no toppings limit.
Below: Oat pancakes stacked with creamy ricotta, wilted spinach and Frylight mushrooms between each layer, topped with a Frylight egg. Another stack that can be easily adapted to incorporate your favourite vegetables and flavours.
Chantal’s Favourite? Egg and banana pancakes! Sweet and speedy with a protein hit!
Chantal’s Final Favourites
After all that, here are the final two breakfasts Chantal told me she loves and I, for one, will have to give them a go! A smoothie made with one banana and whatever fruit she has at home, along with some super spinach, a spoonful of peanut butter and a splash of almond or soya milk. But wait until Sunday, when Chantal and her husband treat themselves to a warm bacon sandwich on fresh white bread from the bakers. What a way to end a busy week! I wonder if they have ketchup or brown sauce?
Breakfast: whether it is an early start with a pre-prepared batch of overnight oats, or a less time constrained morning with time to build, stack or scramble a filling creation, we hope this blog has provided an insight into healthy and nutritious ways to start each day. Now we’re just hungry!
Enjoyed this blog or made any of the recipe ideas? We would love to know! Tag Chantal Law Fitness and One Shy Foodie on Facebook and Instagram!
This is the first in my “mini blogs” series to spread the word of the amazing local hospitality businesses in our local area who will be offering takeaway services over the coming weeks. I wanted to share my experiences of the takeaways I have had this year in condensed write ups to support the industry and also show all the amazing treats we can have too!
‘Made In Appledore‘ is the little sibling of the award winning The Royal George. Based unsurprisingly in Appledore, Made In Appledore offers home-made hot takeaway classics for those evenings you want to fully relax and chill, plus cook at home meals if you want to put in a tiny bit more effort to re-heat. Made with local, fresh ingredients, the meals are super tasty, substantial and very well priced! Ordering and making payment via their website or app makes your evening even more easy by not even having to leave the sofa. This glorious pyjama filled image was me in early April ordering our first lockdown takeaway and it was not the last. We ordered twice more over the lockdown months, so it must have been good!
Thai Green Seafood Curry
I love a curry, particularly on a Friday or Saturday night as an end of the week treat and with my pyjamas donned mid lockdown, our first hot takeaway order was the Thai green seafood curry with all the trimmings. Soft chunks of salmon and cod, with juicy prawns and crunchy seasonal greens, swimming in a vibrant and aromatic Thai green sauce. It tasted amazing with a warming kick of chilli heat, calmed by the creamy coconut. Accompanying this green delight, the bright orange pickled carrot cut through the coconut, the perfectly cooked, soft basmati rice soaked up the silky sauce and the flat bread with nigella seeds mopped up anything that remained, which in the end was nothing! A sensational curry we ordered again for our Made In Appledore takeaway number three. In between that? A burger with a difference.
Fish Burger & Fries
It might be obvious that I am a fan of fish and when a fish burger is available, I have to get involved. This was more than just your average burger. This is a burger made in house by The Royal George chefs with chunks of salmon, cod and prawns. The chunks of beautiful fish shone through giving the burger texture and hits of each fish flavour. The flavourful burger was built upon a bed of home-made delights: pickled fennel provided an acidic note; a sweet and fruity tomato chutney; finished with baby gem lettuce and a creamy chive mayo that felt indulgent and cleansed the pallet slightly, all encased within a “fluffy bun”. No burger is complete without fries! Each bite was crispy on the outside, soft in the middle and piping hot. Plus, it was a hearty pile of fries! And yes, that is a side of fresh veg you see to the left of the burger tower; carrots, broccoli, sugar snap peas and green beans, all with an al dente crunch.
With an extensive menu including roasts, desserts and butchery to name a few, easy ordering and choice of delivery days and times to suit you, Made In Appledore is a local winner for a tasty takeaway, best enjoyed wearing pyjamas on the sofa!
Choosing your favourite flavour of cake is one of life’s tough decisions, and is a decision I rarely make or can give a definitive answer to, mainly because it changes daily! But saying that, carrot cake is always one of my top cake choices with its cinnamon/mixed spice aroma, abundance of veg filled sponge, hopefully some sweetness of dates and crunch of walnuts, finished off with a creamy butter or cream cheese topping. YUM! And how does this relate to the warm, comforting breakfast classic of porridge? Put the two together and it makes what can be a bland, boring breakfast into a sweet, almost naughty feeling, start to your day, when it really isn’t!
This recipe is for one person and is served hot! As well as being a warm and comforting morning bowl, a few simple tweaks and you can have an on-the-go bowl of overnight carrot cake oats (more on that another time!). And as always, this simple recipe can also be made vegan by swapping out particular ingredients for your vegan favourites! Winner!
Carrot Cake Oats for One
Total Time: less than 10 minutes / 20-30 minutes if leaving the oats to soak.
30g jumbo oats (or whatever oats you have!)
Milk of choice
Handful of dried fruit, such as raisins or dates (optional!)
Pop the oats, grated carrot, your desired amount of mixed spice, and dried fruit into a microwavable bowl and combine all the ingredients.
Pour in enough milk to slightly over cover the oat mixture, and stir (you can add more milk if you prefer a more runny porridge!). TIP: If you prefer a softer, creamier porridge, you can leave the mixture to stand for 20-30 minutes which allows the oats to soak up some liquid and become a bit plumper!
Pop the bowl into the microwave for 90 seconds to 2 minutes, stopping to stir every 30-45 seconds (this helps make the porridge creamy, and also allows you to check if you want/need to add any more milk!).
Once cooked, stir in a drop or two of vanilla extract to suit your taste and the crumbled walnuts if using.
Or, if you are using the vanilla protein powder: add the powder to a separate cup/bowl, add a splash of milk or water, mix to make a loose paste, before stirring into your warm porridge.
TIP: sprinkle some additional walnuts pieces and a drizzle of honey to really finish off your porridge!
Grab your spoon and enjoy your warming bowl of carrot cake flavoured oats!
Super quick and simple, non-boring porridge that tastes like cake and will definitely keep you full until lunchtime!
“If you’re passing through anytime soon, I’ll sort you out a brownie box”.
*Runs straight to my car and starts the engine to immediately make a special trip for a box of chocolate heaven from the Bake and Brew headquarters itself*.
That second part is, unfortunately, not true, even though in my head it was almost movie like with suspense, excitement and dramatic music. That would have been pretty cool. It was actually a week or so later I finally made my trip to Bake and Brew HQ after a fun and busy afternoon of working at a local pub. Serving cold, refreshing beverages and hot platefuls of home cooked Sunday roasts made me even more eager to pick up a treat of my own! With a surprise visit from my best friend near the end of my shift, she had to join me on this conquest. It felt very much like a movie adventure; as I clocked out at 4pm, we eagerly walked to my car to begin our journey for the exciting brownie collection, like Batman and Robin! I will let you decide who is who in that scenario! Also, my car is blue with a silver roof, and disappointingly, does not fly. What a let-down.
Despite not being able to fly, my little not-the-batmobile blue car got us to our collection point in approximately nine minutes. Nine minutes of wondering what these brownies would be loaded with; Chocolate? Marshmallows? Sprinkles? Whole chocolate bars? Fairy dust? Not even Professor X could work that one out, and he can read minds (that is for all you X-Men fans out there). Pulling up to Bake and Brew HQ, located in a small, family estate in Bickington, we had “reached our destination”. I quote that because I had to use Google Maps, genuinely. My geography is terrible. With the famous Bake and Brew logo displayed proudly on the front door, I started a slow motion, dramatic walk towards HQ with my cape flowing off my shoulders in the warm summer breeze. It was like a Hollywood film set. With a quick knock on the door, it slowly opened, with a plume of dramatic smoke which slowly dissipated to reveal King Kirk holding the cardboard package flaunting the rustic logo stamp we all know and love. FYI, there was no smoke. After a quick chat and passing of the brownie baton from the baker to the blogger, the quest was completed. A farewell to Kirk, and a big smile on my face, I turned to start another slow motion walk back to my blue batmobile, this time, with chariots of fire playing in the background. What a sight for Nicola to behold. The journey home commenced and soon I would be able to finally answer the big movie plot question that still lingered; what were these brownies loaded with?!
The Loaded Brownie Box Reveal
Blue batmobile parked on the drive, house keys at the ready, I entered my house, making a beeline for the kitchen; the loaded brownie reveal was imminent and I could not wait! Opening the familiar cardboard package, the bakes were lovingly and carefully wrapped once again. I could smell the comforting chocolate aroma already. It was time to peel away the baking parchment and open up the camera on my phone. If there was ever a time for a movie soundtrack to be playing in the background, this was it! Guess what? It was a happy ending, and everyone loves a happy ending.
The Four Movie Stars
Soundtrack still playing, the brownie box revealed that four stars had been cast in this epic blockbuster; Kinder, Mint Aero, Chocolate Aero, and last but not least, Orange Aero. If I had a red carpet, I would have rolled it out right through the house. These brownie stars deserved all the limelight, especially the brownie itself.
We all know the qualities an excellent Hollywood worthy brownie should give us. Spoiler alert! Every single bite of these Bake and Brew brownies was a masterpiece, like the Titanic Movie, with Bake and Brew as the award winning director. Move over James Cameron. Picture the scene; a soft, slightly chewy, almost undercooked, middle, encased by a flaky, textured crust that produced a bit of crunch, rounded off by the taste bud slapping indulgent flavour of chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate. Oscar worthy if you ask me, and when you end the excellent brownie performance with loaded toppings, a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star is definitely awarded.
Star One: Kinder
Before even getting my teeth into this first brownie star, I knew I was going to love it endlessly because I am a massive fan of Kinder chocolate! There is just something about it that makes me melt, and this Kinder loaded brownie experience did exactly that once more. The bright, milky white, Kinder chocolate bar contrasted the dark colour of the brownie, adding a big pop of colour, making it even more inviting. Ironically, after my description above, an abundance of small, white, delicate chocolate stars were sprinkled around the deeply rich brownie crust. Bake and Brew must have known it was a star too. I took my first bite of the Kinder brownie approximately 15 minutes after arriving back home (I was hungry, honest), and I was star struck. The slim pieces of Kinder chocolate added a subtle creaminess to the brownie mouthful, without making everything too sweet, cutting through the richness of the chocolate filled bake. My heart melted with happiness, and if CGI was available at 5:15pm on a Sunday afternoon, my legs would have too.
Star Two: Mint Aero
Second brownie in, I will be totally honest and admit that I did have a bite of each striking loaded delight that fine Sunday afternoon; it would have been very rude not to, right? Plus, I needed something to refresh my taste buds after the creamy, indulgent, Kinder mouthful. Luckily, the next in line was the colourful Mint Aero loaded brownie which did just that. When initially peeling back the carefully laid out baking parchment, the electrifying green colouring and the strong, fresh smell of mint, were the first things to catch my eyes and twitch my nose (due to the ongoing movie theme, the word ‘electrifying’ must be read in the voice of Danny Zuko; Leather jacket is optional).
Another nominee for my teeth to get into and the refreshing mint flavour exploded, clearing away any wonderful, lingering residue from the previous creamy Kinder mouthful. The bubbly nature of the famous chocolate was as light as a cloud, and instantly melted onto my tongue and into the fudgy brownie, slicing through lavish richness of the chocolate. Another contender for best supporting actor. CGI special effects still in use, my legs melted ever so slightly more.
Star Three: Chocolate Aero
Half way through my Sunday afternoon I-don’t-want-to-wait taste testing blockbuster, the chocoholics dream was about to take centre stage. Chocolate, upon chocolate, upon more chocolate. If Bruce Bogtrotter was available, I would have invited him around and chanted that famous phrase in the background whilst he enjoyed his chocolate feast; “BRUCE BRUCE BRUCE!”. Unfortunately, on this particular Sunday, Mr Bogtrotter was otherwise engaged. Shame. Luckily, I was fully willing to tackle the third instalment of the Bake and Brew big screen brownies; I did not need Ms Trunchbull to force me to eat chocolate!
Much the same as its green, hulk-esque (wow the movie references are flowing today) counterpart, this full blown chocolate filled party was just that; an absolute blast. As the brownie was deeply rich, I could taste the distinctive, milky flavour of the light, bubbly chocolate as it too, melted effortless. It was a miracle I was still standing at this point. There isn’t much else to say on this triumphant bake; a rich chocolate brownie, covered in more sweet, tasty, heart-warming chocolate. What is not to love! Bruce would be so proud.
Star Four: Orange Aero
Here we are; the last, but by no means least, brownie star. I had reached the happy ending in the form of a striking, citrus smelling, slab of orange aero loaded brownie. Bake and Brew know their flavour combinations! Chocolate and orange are a match made in heaven, and I have heard that some bloke called Terry is a big fan. The small pockets of bubbles were as present as ever and the fruity, orange taste danced flamboyantly with intense brownie flavour. But that wasn’t all. An extra supporting actor for this orange based star was present, in the form of a small, round, milk chocolate button with a crispy, bright orange shell. A very smart(ie) move. A move that rounded off the final taste test with a crisp crunch and intensified the orange kick.
From the batmobile beginning, to reaching this mouth watering motion picture ending, it had not been the three hour long commitment we have come to know in the movie world. If anything, the whole loaded brownie bake box could be easily consumed within the time it takes to watch an epic X-Men movie (Wolverine is a legend, fact). However, in a massive plot twist, I managed to spread my consumption over three days. Don’t ask me how, but I think there must have been some movie magic involved!
Bake and Brew directed the stars of this loaded brownie bake box so well, it is a five star review within the first few seconds of taking your first bite, and will definitely become one of your box set classics you will eat over and over, and never get bored.
Come to think of it, a loaded brownie box during a movie is probably the best snack idea I have ever heard!
Bake & Brew boxes are available for nationwide delivery or local collection!
It is Monday morning and my bathroom is finally being ripped out; so-long blue tiles and shower head that is just slightly too short for my height! Amongst the smashing of tiles, the yellow and slightly spotty view of three bananas, calling out to be transformed into something tasty before it is too late (the bin will never be their final resting place, they will always get eaten in one form or another!). Today, it was the turn of a sweeter breakfast I have not indulged in for quite a while; banana pancakes with a pimped up greek yoghurt topping! I say indulge, but they are actually on the healthy side, an even tastier bonus! It was time to retrieve my crepe maker from the cupboard once more!
This recipe is for one person and makes three to four small pancakes (American pancake size if you will!). Depending on the size of your breakfast party, or your own hunger, you can double the recipe etc to suit your needs! It is also very easy to make vegan, just substitute ingredients for your preferred products. Plus, the yoghurt topping has endless possibilities too!
Spiced Banana Pancakes for One
Total time: 10-15 minutes
Makes: 3-4 small pancakes for one person
Crepe maker or frying pan
Frylight sunflower oil spray, or other oil
The Pancake Batter
1 small banana
30g jumbo oats (or whatever oats you have!)
Splash of milk
Yoghurt (I used fat free greek yoghurt as I like thick yoghurt, but you can use your favourite!)
Strawberries, chopped, plus extra for a bit of decoration
Grab your knife and fork and enjoy with a massive smile!
Super easy and simple to make at any time of the day! It doesn’t just have to be the ingredients listed above, you can create your own mouth watering banana pancake stacks! How about swapping the cinnamon for some nutmeg or mixed spice; adding in different berries such as blueberries or cherries; using different spreads to layer and top your pancakes; or crumbling up different nuts like hazelnuts, almonds, or even seeds! The pancake potentials are endless!
Anyone ever been to the same quaint cafe twice within approximately 24 hours? No, me neither. However, I did just see a pig fly over my house and my nose seems to have grown suddenly since I started typing on this damp and grey Wednesday afternoon. Eating out is such a joy, especially with close friends. Close friends who do not mind my child like excitement whilst we are together at our chosen food spot, or the array of photos I love to take to flaunt and remember our food and time together. I am sure the homely, local cafe of Market Street Kitchen did not mind either, or notice across the day and a bit that it was, in fact, a double whammy of yours truly (I did wear different outfits for both occasions, which to be honest, is an achievement).
A Hidden Gem
Market Street Kitchen is located in the picturesque village of Appledore; a truly wonderful place and one of the many gems we have in North Devon. Placed slightly aback from the wide, open space of Appledore Quay, MSK (that abbreviation flows quite well actually, so it will be staying) is situated literally on Market Street. It is a cafe that could only really be named one thing (I assume Market Street Kitchen was top of the name list).
Unlike the vast quay which sits parallel to the sandy beach and tourist filled village of Instow across the River Torridge (another hidden gem), walking through Market Street is a bit of a step back in time. Patches of cobbles you can feel undulating beneath your flip flops, as you walk between two rows of buildings consisting of cottage houses and local shops. Decorated by a sea of bunting that makes its way from building to building with an abundance of colour, patterns, and grace. Even if you are not local, it makes you feel at home; a big North Devon hug you want to hold on tight to. Walk far enough along the slim line street and your eyes will be hit by a vibrant splash of lime green; let the photography and smiles spreading across everyone’s faces commence, especially mine!
Once your eyes adjust to the vibrant entrance and striking arrangement of flowers and knitted creatures, the homely cuddle continues inside and through into their secluded garden. A small counter proudly displaying large jars filled with their home made sweet treats, ready for you to make a last minute decision that you thoroughly deserve a piece (you always deserve a piece). Once you have peeled your eyes away from the chocolate brownie, the shelves in front of you hold up even more jars filled with an array of coffees and beautiful loose leaf teas. Putting your eyes back into your head at this point, you turn to see the rustic cabinet full of their home made (obviously) jam, pickle and marmalade. Is there anything this little kitchen can’t do? Now you can see clearly again after being bombarded by such mouth-watering delights, you walk out into the beautiful garden. A stoned pathway leads you past their quirky shed shop that sells all kinds of bits and bobs from the area, and up into the small outdoor space, arranged with mosaic patterned tables, a wooden shelter for those rainy days, and wondrous plants and flowers to fill the senses. I was lucky enough to enjoy both my visits in their serene garden, and randomly, at the same square, wooden table.
Breakfast for Lunch!
There isn’t a time of day when breakfast cannot be consumed, fact. And a Monday lunchtime with one of my Wingmen clan (if you know, you know) was one of those glorious breakfast not at breakfast filled times. A fantastic, simple menu filled with local produce and home made goods made for a back and forth decision for both of us, until we finally decided upon the same enticing meal; The Vegan Breakfast. I am not vegan (mainly because of eggs. Man I LOVE eggs) but really enjoy eating vegan and vegetarian based meals. The majority of the time, I will probably decide on a veg filled plate of goodness, and the MSK vegan breakfast was one of those filling plates.
A rare day off from consuming eggs, this vegan breakfast hit the spot and filled my stomach with smiles, as well as my face. The white, oval plate held a quartet of well cooked breakfast regulars. Lightly pan-fried mushrooms were earthy and soft, with what I think was a small coating of butter (correct me if I am wrong MSK!), gracefully piled next to two vegan sausages. Meat free variations of our favourites, such as sausages, are underrated (in my opinion) and these did not disappoint either. Crisp on the outside and soft in the middle, the sausages were filled with colourful, bite sized pieces of sweetcorn, peppers and peas. Both were full of flavour and obviously got a good ketchup dunking. Halfway through the quartet, two lovingly roasted, caramelised halves of tomato. Roasted tomatoes are hard to beat; such an easy way to enhance their natural sweetness and pimp up any breakfast, or meal for that matter. And what breakfast wouldn’t be complete without a big spoonful of home made baked beans in a tomato sauce, a warm pile of wholemeal toast and a little saucer of butter? FYI, none. The MSK vegan breakfast is worthy of your time at any time of the day; breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner.
It was a fabulously chilled few hours, and the best way to prepare for the next MSK endeavour approaching in 24 hours time: the afternoon tea. Cue ridiculous levels of photography and smiles, most definitely from me!
The MSK Afternoon Tea
So here we are, the afternoon tea, one of the most British things you can do, alongside a Sunday roast and standing in a queue. An afternoon tea definitely tops that British-ness list for me for a few reasons: it does not happen very often so always feels like a real treat! It mixes sweet and savoury which I am all for. Miniature versions of your favourite sweet and savoury treats makes you feel like you are indulging in so much more than you probably actually are! Finally, everyone has their own version of a classic afternoon tea, so you never know what might get put down in front of you. And when your best friend tells you she would like an afternoon tea for her birthday, who am I not to make that dream a reality!
It was very much a deja vu feeling walking down to Appledore for the second time, wearing my favourite pink, flowery dress (it was the best friend’s birthday after all) just 24 hours after consuming that stomach filling vegan breakfast. The same cobbles, bunting, and bright and warming sunshine had the makings for another fantastic afternoon at MSK (we both knew it would be a fantastic afternoon because cake was involved, and cake is life).
Sitting on our rustic chairs, excitably chatting away and sipping our chosen teas (super fruit tea for Nicola, and green tea for moi), we awaited the arrival of our first afternoon tea of 2020. Would the amount of sweet and savoury treats be balanced? No one wants too much of one and not enough of the other. What flavour would the cakes be? *Prays for something chocolatey to be involved*. Jam or cream first? Jam, and I will explain my reasoning. I may be Devonian through and through, but jam is a spread and must, therefore, be spread onto the scone first, before the glorious dollop of cream. Jam cannot be spread on cream – it is just a mess. I will now leave you all to argue over which way is best (I am not budging, and Nicola agrees).
Finally, the moment of truth arrived, in the form of a mountain of afternoon tea delights.
What a Spread!
Our eyes nearly fell out of our heads, and mouths almost hit the wooden, square table we had chosen for our afternoon adventure. A tall, vintage, four tier (yes, FOUR) afternoon tea platter was placed down in the middle of our table, and almost towered above us as we sat, almost dribbling. What. A. Spread; sandwiches, cakes, tray bakes, scones, jam and cream, it was time to dive in, mouths first.
Savoury Sandwiches and Scones
The MSK afternoon tea started off the only way it could, with an array of savoury sandwiches arranged on the bottom tier; we were making our way up from the bottom to the top! Upon our arrival that sun kissed Tuesday, we were asked if we were happy with sandwich fillings. A small tweak to prawn mayonnaise from a cheese based sandwich due to my massive lack of cheese favouritism, and we were good to munch. And munch we did, upon prawn mayonnaise, tomato, and tuna mayonnaise triangular filled delights.
A mixture of white and brown bread encased the freshly made fillings. The brown bread in particular was a triumph; soft that it slightly bounced in between your fingers, light to chew and on the stomach, a well coloured crust to add that bitter note, and a light dispersion of seeds throughout for an extra crunch. Plus, being thinly sliced, the bread to filling ratio was definitely in favour of the fillings; it is always a sign of a good sandwich when you take your first bite and the filling starts to spill out slightly, they were jammed packed!
The most memorable of the savoury sandwiches was the unexpected and surprising tomato filling. This wasn’t your average tomato sandwich, it wasn’t even an M&S tomato sandwich, this was an MSK tomato sandwich (did you just read all that in the voice of the very recognisable posh TV lady? Or was that just me?). The filling was the expected striking tomato red colour, with a scent that was almost Mediterranean. It was like a mini tomato garden had been planted between two pieces of bread; small chunks of fresh, sweet tomatoes, mixed with what seemed like the heftier hit of sun dried tomatoes, and an aromatic dollop of red pesto. Whatever it was, it was a heavenly filling I have not had anywhere else before, and I’m disappointed in myself for not asking what made this zingy tomato sandwich so, well, tomato-y (MSK, if you’re reading this, I would love to know!).
From vegetarian to fish, and the classic, well loved, prawn mayo and tuna mayo sandwiches. Fillings that stood up to their name and had big, afternoon tea worthy pieces of actual prawn and tuna chunks (not any of this pre-made, smooth stuff you may find in large supermarkets). The prawn was sweet in flavour, juicy in texture, and slightly blush pink in colour. The tuna was on a par with its sea loving counterpart; textured with large pieces of flaky tuna, rather than the smooth, sometimes dry paste that some tuna experiences can be. Both seafood sandwiches were rich with just enough mayonnaise to coat the delicate protein, and rounded off a trio of triumphant sandwiches.
Continuing our savoury journey, we temporarily skipped a tier, climbing our way to tier three and made it to our first scone. A plump cheese scone, accompanied by a helping of cream cheese and home made onion chutney. Despite swapping out a cheese based sandwich, I was very keen for this cheesy chutney based endeavour (I can cope with and enjoy small amounts of mild cheese in foods). The scone itself was light to hold, had a crunchy cheese top, egg washed outer and was easy to break into two pieces with our hands like all good scones should. When broken into two, the light smell of cheddar flew through the air between us from the soft and slightly crumbly inner. A layer of slightly sour cream cheese made a perfect pillow for the amazing home made onion chutney to lay upon. The chutney was so flavourful; full of caramelised onions, dried fruits and an abundance of spices that complemented the cheese flavour of the delicate scone perfectly. The scone was tasty on its own, but with the onion chutney on top, it was divine. Plus, with the cooling, palette cleansing cream cheese, the perfect way to prepare for our climb onto the sweet tiers.
Savoury completed, it was onto the sweet (saving the best to last for you all).
Sweet Sponges, Scones and Tray bakes
The long awaited sweet treats were spread over three tiers, with at least one piece each of everything. Some had two pieces each! As we washed away the savoury note in our mouths with warm flavourful tea, we gazed at the mixture of cakes, scones and tray bakes, taking in all their colours with our eyes, and sweets smells with our noses, ready to grab with our eager hands. Our thorough cake inspection led us to the following conclusion of what each tier entailed: plain scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam; cranberry and peanut tiffin; cherry bakewell sponge; and an orange and sultana tray bake. It was time for the taste test, and we were so ready.
With the savoury scone already a triumph, we had no doubt that the sweet version would be just as good, if not even better. Plump with the recognisable ring around its middle, the plain scone split into two halves with very little effort, to reveal another light, soft, and slightly crumbly interior. Plus, each scone was still slightly warm in our cake grabbing hands; talk about fresh from the oven! The first layer of deep red, sweet and sticky strawberry jam was SPREAD onto the pale scone canvas FIRST, to be swiftly joined by a thick, luxurious dollop of clotted cream. That first bite was heavenly, and to quote from my notebook: “tasted like a damn good scone”. The pillow like scone combined with the power house duo of strawberries and cream, made for an absolute dream. A dream we did not want to wake from!
Now, it wasn’t until I actually bit into the next slab of sweet, cake-y goodness that I really worked out what the delicious flavour was; orange and sultana. I have never had a bake like this before, and if I am honest, I want it all over again because it was probably my favourite from the afternoon tea! The bake was more dense in texture than your average cake, but in a totally good way. Each square was super moist (I very much dislike that adjective, unlike Mary Berry) and luxurious with orange syrup; so much so we were left with a gooey orange layer on our fingertips, which obviously wasn’t wasted. The sultanas were in abundance, locating themselves in every part of the sticky morsel, throwing even more fruit sweetness and texture at our already very happy palettes. Surrounding that mandarin coloured, sultana filled interior was a dark and treacle like exterior. It almost reminded me of the epic outer edge of a well baked flapjack, know what I mean? It was the perfect contrast and fingertip worthy surface.
From tray bake to actual cake, we had made it to the top tier of our MSK afternoon tea expedition. At the summit we were greeted with a glorious sight, almost topping that of actual summits, such as Everest. This was our Everest. Two layers of vanilla sponge, light and fluffy as a cloud, were glued together by a deep and rich cherry jam, topped with smooth, creamy buttercream, and a noticeable hint of almond dancing through the whole slice. This bakewell tart sponge was exactly that; a bakewell tart transformed into sponge form and it was tremendous. I wanted to buy the whole cake (might do that next time I am in Appledore).
Before we could slowly start making our way down from our sugar summit, we took a trip to the chocolate medical tent, where we prescribed ourselves a dose of peanut and cranberry tiffin. My peanut butter obsession struck again and would be satisfied once more. Generous flakes of peanut giving a nutty edge and crunchy texture, was matched by crumbled pieces of a very famous tea dunking biscuit (we all know which one). Succulent cranberries contrasted the savoury taste of peanut and biscuit, adding sweetness, acidity and a pop of dazzling deep red; looking like hidden gems themselves. All of these wonderful flavours were bound together by lashings of rich chocolate that became almost ganache like in places, where the bitter brown liquid met with the fine crumbs of our beloved biscuit. Our blood sugar levels had now reached their summit.
It may surprise you, but we both controlled ourselves over those couple of hours and did not eat the whole shebang in one go; hence the title. The kind MSK staff popped our few pieces of leftover cake (feels weird typing those words as that normally does not happen, ever) into empty clotted cream tubs for us to transport home and further enjoy at our own discretion. I don’t know about Nicola, but I managed to drag mine out for a few days, which totally deserves a medal.
Blimey. I hope everyone is feeling OK, because I am exhausted after all that. An expedition in itself reliving that fun filled, cake eating, brunch munching 24 hours, and an expedition you should definitely all undertake!
Morning has broke. Outside of your four walls you can hear the gentle trickle of rain falling from grey clouds (probably no surprise in the UK lets be honest). The streak of light squeezing through the gap in your black out curtains (best purchase ever) awakens your brain to the fact you should, one: probably get out of bed, and two: have you been baking? Stretching your body to be as awake as your brain, you make your way weary eyed downstairs and open the door to the best room in the house; the kitchen (the room of food). Your senses are smacked with the warm, comforting aroma of freshly baked bread. You can taste the carbohydrate lovers dream already, smothered in butter, making one of life’s simple pleasures. What a way to start the day, right?
Truth is, that is one hell of a fabulous dream because the lovely bread maker I was given as a birthday present many years ago has been lovingly stored in the cupboard for, well, a bit less than many years, after an initial flurry of bread maker excitement. Unless, that is, you are the talented bakers of The Appledore Bakery, with a sourdough starter named Betty.
Sourdough Social Media
Whether you love it or hate it, social media is a power house for exposure, and it was this power that drew me to this local bakery and started a bit of a relationship. A simple Instagram enquiry of where and when to best purchase the famous bake led to a generous gift of a three day old boule and two packs of cinnamon and raisin bagels. Their kindness was literally free, and to thank them for their generosity ever since, they have been bombarded with photos, videos, and tags galore from yours truly! Another boule purchase made since because no other bread hits the spot or gives as much satisfaction as this local triumph (it was a very disappointing morning when the boule was no more and sliced bread was all we had). Supporting local feels pretty darn good too, and everyone should give it a go, even if it is just the once. And don’t worry, full blown bagel blog coming soon for you to all get excited about.
The White Sourdough Boule
Imagine waking up in the home of The Appledore Bakery. That warm, carbohydrate filled dream must be a reality every single day! Who would need perfume when you can carry the scent of freshly baked bread instead! I know what I would rather smell like. Note to self: Dragon’s Den idea for freshly baked bread perfume scent. I can smell the millions already. To get that beloved, fresh, sourdough boule? Organic flour, sea salt and de-chlorinated water. You can’t get more simple and natural than that. Well, that isn’t just all; add around one year of trial and error to perfect the brilliant boule I fell in love with only a few weeks ago. Simple and natural even extends to the packaging. Gloriously white, recyclable outer, encasing the beautiful, three day labour of love product inside. Three days! How many things do we dedicate three days to? For me, probably not many; unless its dissecting the menu of the next establishment I am going to invade and eat my way through. Three days of bringing each boule to life for us all to enjoy and get out the bread knife.
Oh to have been The Appledore Bakery children having to tireless sample sourdough after sourdough after sourdough. A tough job but someone had to do it. Sounds bloody brilliant if you ask me! And what a part they have played because this local boule is something special.
It was this crust that blew my bread brain when I opened the white, rustic package for the first time a few weeks ago, along with the instantly recognisable odour of flour, water and salt. On this momentous occasion; a lightly browned, slightly hardened crust, surrounding a soft, air bubble filled middle (more on that middle next – I got your back). Despite being three days old, the first (freebie) boule still held its ground in the world of triumphant Appledore bakes; a noticeably harder crust than my second (non-freebie) fresh boule, but still just as joyous for all the senses. If I thought the freebie boule was good, the super fresh second boule I purchased from our fantastic local store John’s of Appledore was about to blow my mind right out of my head.
Sliding probably the most under used knife in my kitchen out from its home in the knife block, the golden sourdough boule was awaiting its first carve. It was a nerve racking thing carving into the Appledore boule. Too thin and the delicate texture of the bread would crumble before my eyes. Too thick and, well, I would have to eat more bread. Wait, is that even a bad thing? It would be a crying shame to waste such produce wouldn’t it, so I would just have to tackle that doorstop slice if it came to it. Luckily, I just about got it right, and vastly improved my slices as the days went by. The teeth of the bread knife gnawing their way through THAT CRUST. A sound you could gently hear amongst the increased heart rate between my ears, before the knife flowed through the textured middle and ending once again at THAT CRUST (you can probably sense the scale of how much I loved THAT CRUST). Slice completed, it was time to breathe and top it with worthy ingredient combinations. But first, the middle.
We Made It To The Middle Ground
With my heart rate lowering, my senses were filled to the brim. My eyes dazzled by the array of multi-sized air pockets weaving their way throughout the boule. My nose twitching at the slightly sour scent of the oven fresh bake. My hands gently embracing THAT CRUST whilst my fingertips instantly detected the give in the boule; it was showing off its light and bouncy midriff. And can you blame it, just look at it, what a sense sensation. I needed to get back into bed after all that.
With the boule almost perfectly sliced and my stomach rumbling (it is always rumbling if I’m honest), it was time to lightly toast the slice, and crown the bread royalty with an array of jewels.
The only way to first taste such a pure and simple ingredient was to keep it just as simple. Placed into the toaster for a few minutes, the sourdough slice appeared with a brand new outfit. The air bubble filled middle effortlessly dressed itself in varying degrees of toasted shades, which I loved. Some regions of the slice provided the desired texture and flavour of “toast” we all know and love, whilst the other regions were not conquered by the blistering hot flames of the toaster (don’t worry, the toaster did not set on fire), still possessing their soft and bouncy nature. Proudly laying on its rounded throne, the first jewel was spread; good old fashioned butter. The radiating warmth providing the perfect temperature to slowly melt the partially solid golden nugget adorning my chosen knife onto its toasted surface and into its soft crevasses.
I don’t think I will ever forget that first bite. The buttered soaked surface soft with the adorable taste of the creamy, melted dairy. The outer edge enhanced by the heat of the toaster, became even more crunchy and textured than when I first experienced it with my now not so underused bread knife; I repeat again, THAT CRUST. My heart was full, my stomach was full and now my brain was full of ideas of how to further dress the crown in more beautiful jewels.
I have a bit of a sweet tooth, and sometimes that tooth needs satisfying in the morning at breakfast! Breakfast is definitely one of my most enjoyed meals of the day because it is so versatile; sweet, savoury, early, later, or all of these combined! My favourite sweet and savoury combination? Peanut butter and jam. When this american classic came into my North Devon life a few years ago, I was never letting it go (if you have read my previous blog, you will know I have a ridiculous love of peanut butter). But lets not be boring here. Lets add a personal twist to the beloved combo and layer it up on the toasted crown.
Crunchy peanut butter – always! In my opinion, the pieces of nut give the butter so much more of a peanut flavour than it already has. Second, it adds even more texture and crunch to the meal you are blessing it with.
Fresh strawberries – the twist on the normal flavoured jam. Fresh, juicy, naturally sweet, and, they look like actual jewels perfectly buffed and layered on the peanut butter bed. Now that is something I would definitely sleep upon. Note to self; second Dragon’s Den idea.
Finally, for extra luxury and another dimension of sweetness, a glistening drizzle of Quince Honey Farm Devon honey It is a drizzle that elevates everything it touches; toast, porridge, cakes, roasted vegetables, the list goes on! Just down the road at South Molton, you best get in your car and bag your golden drizzle.
North Devon PB&J on sourdough toast, what a way to start the day, or massively enhance any part of it *heads downstairs immediately to unashamedly eat peanut butter straight out of the jar*.
The breakfast/brunch obsession continues and we arrive at egg central. Fresh, free range, local eggs topping our fresh, local sourdough toast. What more did you egg-spect (my first egg pun and probably not my last. You have been warned). My love of eggs is pretty close to that of the crunchy peanut stuff, and mixing each egg filled occasion up with a twist is an almost daily occurrence my stomach expects. Scrambled? Add some smoked salmon. Boiled or poached? The golden yolk must ooze out like lava from a volcano, and trickle down the dazzling white and into the sourdough crevasses, sometimes having to tirelessly make its way over a mound of wilted pesto spinach and griddled halloumi. Be warned; once you start tucking into this Mediterranean inspired egg brunch, it will not look pretty. In fact, very few runny egg adorned toasts hold onto their initial eye catching glamour I have noticed. Your multi layered volcano will collapse, sending the golden stream, well, everywhere. And lets not even get into the molten egg inside a sandwich situation. Carnage.
Now for the ultimate crown jewel; smoked salmon. So easily available and reasonably priced nowadays, it is a regular feature of our fridge and always feels like such a decadent treat. The slightly smokey flavour diffusing its way through silky soft scrambled eggs, or elegantly laying over the warm, buttered sourdough to be united with its perfect match of flawlessly poached (most of the time) free range eggs, before being rained on with a large grind of black peppercorns.
What a lucky thing that sourdough boule is being the perfect match and vessel for so many other fantastic ingredients and flavours. And how lucky are we to be able to purchase and appreciate this amazing bake, from just down the road.
If you are local to North Devon, or love a visit to us (because why wouldn’t you), you will probably of heard of the now baking legends that are Bake & Brew. Or, maybe you have seen them over the years without even knowing, on the beautiful Tarka Trail with their trike, an array of hot drinks (sorry, brews) and mouth watering bakes, whilst you enjoy our beautiful scenery riding your bikes (cycling on the Tarka Trail is much easier than the road, trust me). Or, maybe you prefer a bit of running on two legs, rather than two wheels and have bolted to their treat trike straight after you successfully finished one of our local running clubs events (Bideford AAC if you are interested; shameless plug). If there was ever a time to deserve a slab of sweet, local goodness, post half marathon is one of those.
Okay, small fib there, anytime is the time we all deserve a Bake & Brew sweet treat because, you know, we are all bloody amazing. That is my reasoning for pretty much anything food related, and it seems to work! In what ever way you came across the famous trike trio, I bet you haven’t regretted it. I know I haven’t!
Being a runner for most of my life (albeit an injured one for most of my life; if you know, you know), I first heard of Bake & Brew at those local running events. Fast forward a few years, a simple Instagram story from them, and a hopeful reply from me, here we both are smiling for our first working together selfie when King Kirt delivered their latest mixed bake box. It was probably one of the best Fridays of my life so far. That is not an exaggeration either, as two hours later, I was eating pizza at the beach; what a day (easily pleased).
The Mixed Bake Box
A simple box encasing freshly baked, still slightly warm, delights. Proudly on the front of the treat holding package, their infamous logo everyone has come to know and recognise. My excitement was building again, and my smile almost coming off my face, as I opened the treasure chest to reveal the bakes lovingly wrapped in grease proof paper, with their business card slotted in proudly. I could already smell the ingredients of this weeks chosen bakes. Warm chocolate; definitely the earthy, nutty aroma of peanuts; the sweetness of caramel; and a big hit of fresh mint. As much as I wanted to rip the wrapping straight off to reveal each beautiful bake, I managed to control myself and take the first initial photos (blog life taking over).
Food photography completed for now, it was time to unwrap the best present I have received since what feels like Christmas (I don’t know about you, but given how 2020 has gone, Christmas seems like a good five years ago, right?). It was a beautiful moment. If this was a movie, everyone would be crying tears of happiness into their popcorn. Each of the four bakes, perfectly cut into equal rectangular sizes, lay next to each other like the four left in the bed, but no one wanted to roll over, and thankfully, no one fell out (if you now have that nursery rhyme in your head, you’re welcome, and so do I).
I mean, come on, who wouldn’t be crying into their popcorn if this image was how the movie ended? Unfortunately, the inevitable arrived and I had to ruin this beautiful four bake landscape, and taste each one of them. Shame.
Mint Rocky Road
Vibrant green, bubbly nodules, surrounded by smooth milk chocolate, interlaced with crumbly pieces of tea dunking worthy biscuit, this rocky road stood out from the crowd. I couldn’t help but spot this bake first with its striking appearance. You eat first with your eyes, and my eyes had swallowed it whole.
The overriding smell was that of the bubbly mint chocolate, and that continued into the flavour. The mint chocolate was obviously light because of its bubble texture, and it was a perfect partner for the creamy, smooth milk chocolate and crunchy biscuit. The whole bake was much lighter than some of the rocky roads you can get, because of this genius chocolate choice, and also the amount of each ingredient. The bake crumbled slightly, without totally falling apart leaving you covered in crumbs and trying to discretely eat said crumbs off yourself without anyone noticing (never, ever waste food, not even the crumbs).
I am a big fan of mint as a flavour, and the next time my mouth needs freshening up, I will just order a tray of mint rocky road and bite into that rather than reach for the pot of chewing gum that hides in the cupboard.
The three C’s: chocolate, caramel and cookie. If three things were ever meant to find each other to create magnificent offspring, Bake & Brew were the proud parents. A buttery, chocolate chip, cookie foundation, crumbled into tiny taste bomb pieces (man I need to try their actual chocolate chip cookies). A golden middle layer of caramel, shining like Aladdin’s lamp, on top of the mountain of cookie coins (get ready for this Disney reference to continue). The caramel smooth and creamy but not sickly sweet (I still have my teeth just like Aladdin). Finally, the glorious milk chocolate topping added the bitter note to the bake which balanced the sweetness of the cookie and caramel layers, making this bake a cave of wonders (boom, Disney pun!).
And like all Disney films, it was a happy ending because I got to eat it.
White Chocolate Flapjack
By this point, I was wondering how this bake box could get any better. One word: flapjack. I love flapjack. It is one of the most comforting bakes out there, in my opinion (hope you agree), and this flapjack comforted me like my big, fluffy blanket (whilst lying on the sofa, under said blanket, eating said flapjack). The oat mixture, just holding itself together like a good flapjack should, melting in the mouth, was followed by a velvety wave of the distinctive taste of white chocolate. The flurry of white chocolate drizzled over the top of the melting oats, was just enough to take this flapjack to the next level.
Blanket, sofa and flapjack; what more could you want? (Maybe more flapjack, but that’s not the point).
Without trying to show favouritism (I totally am), this quarter of the bake box was the quarter I was one hundred percent most looking forward to tasting. The reason? I have, some might say, a very unhealthy relationship with anything peanut butter related. I once went through a kilo tub of the nutty stuff within two weeks (true story). So you can imagine the excitement of a snickers based slab of perfection, because lets face it, it was going to be epic. And epic it was.
Every bite consisted of every element, which you could taste and feel. The literal crunch against your teeth of the crisp flakes of cereal, and that satisfying crunch ringing in your ears like a food chorus. The slightly sticky caramel pulling on your premolars before doing what they were designed to do and crush the doughy texture of nougat pieces, along with the brittle peanuts, of this well known chocolate bar (totally had to Google that tooth fact). The milk chocolate, binding this magnificent peanut world together, ended what seemed like a marathon taste sensation (snickers pun was intended).
To quote Kirk on that glorious Friday evening: “I am so hot!”, as unusually, he was on the delivery that sunny evening, on top of already baking and wrapping everyone’s individual boxes they were excitedly waiting for. Talk about dedication. And that is what you get from Bake & Brew; a local, family run business, who have worked hard to get to where they are now and continually making their customers smile before, during and after their sweet adrenaline rush. What legends. And what a bake box.
I had loads of ideas of what to base my first blog post on, but it seemed only right to start with the place and restaurant (now restaurants!) that really got me excited about food and how amazing it can be. That special place is the beautiful Padstow, Cornwall. That restaurant is the amazing The Seafood Restaurant by probably the original king of seafood, Rick Stein (it’s not called Padstein for nothing!).
I first visited Padstow in 2015 for the pure reason of “I want to eat at Rick Stein’s!”, and it couldn’t have been a better introduction to the more finer restaurants around. It definitely kick started a love of (sea) food and a love of Padstow. With another visit in 2016 and 2018, hopefully the next won’t be too far away!
As silly as it sounds, I was pretty nervous about our Seafood Restaurant reservation; it’s a place for posher people than us right?! That thought was soon put to bed. Warmly welcomed by a smiling face at the entrance, before being seated mid-restaurant and introduced to our waiter for the evening – a young waiter who definitely knew their stuff! The atmosphere was fab and I felt really special to be somewhere like this. The whole restaurant centred around an amazing 360 degree bar located in the centre of the restaurant (there were oysters and everything on it).
First up, wine, pages and pages of it. Who knew wine lists could be so big! I am not a massive wine lover (big shock to you all) unless it is super sweet, and I felt a bit of a wally telling the waiter this fact. But lo and behold, the waiter suggested two dessert wines and provided a sample of each (mind blown). One clear winner; I will have a glass of that please! It is probably still the best tasting glass of wine I have ever had, despite nearly spitting it all back out at the end when we got the bill, but it was so worth it.
The food on offer was a seafood lovers dream, and being where we were, you knew it was going to be super fresh and local, and it has been every time. The plate that stands out the most was my starter in 2016 on my second visit; cuttlefish risotto with squid ink. It was striking in look and taste! It took me a few minutes to get my head around the colour and that I was going to eat it! The rice was soft and covered beautifully by the squid ink. The cuttlefish was cut into small pieces and each piece was exactly the same size. Take my hat off to these talented chefs and their patience for details like that. It melted when you ate it; a cliche term, but true. It was the best risotto I have ever tasted. If I am ever asked what the best plate you have ever had, this is way up there. I would have smiled more at the time but the potential visual state of my teeth and lips were a bigger issue (if you know, you know). Thank god for plenty of napkins!
If that wasn’t enough, both Seafood Restaurant visits ended with chocolate truffles; and there is always room for chocolate truffles!
I have this weird thing where I very rarely eat a whole banana in one sitting. I know, weird right. Don’t ask me why, but it is definitely a thing; half a banana sliced onto warm, cosy porridge, or placed lovingly on top of a crunchy peanut butter laden piece of wholemeal toast, or more recently, using that leftover half a banana to sweeten up our friend the fluffy pancake. I can tell you’re all thinking, why half a banana? It is nothing to do with the pancake recipe itself, but rather our new favourite ‘F word’: furlough. Ongoing furlough life means breakfast (more than likely brunch if I’m honest) for one, with the aim of one day bringing pancakes to the weekend for Rob to enjoy as well and, therefore, utilising the whole of the yellow fruit. Update: neither of these two aims are yet to have happened.
This recipe is for one person, but if you do have the opportunity to make pancakes for more than yourself, just multiply the recipe to get your pancake party started. The recipe is vegetarian and can also be made vegan by swapping out particular ingredients for your vegan favourites!
Fluffy Vanilla Pancake Batter
Total Time: 20 minutes
Makes: three to four pancakes, depending how big you like them
Separate the egg and place the white in one bowl and the yolk in the other bowl.
Using your electric or hand whisk, whisk the egg white until they are fluffy and a hold a peak.
Weigh out 40g of self-raising flour and 40ml of milk, add to the egg yolk bowl and mix together with a drop of vanilla extract.
Add the whisked egg white to the egg yolk bowl mixture and gently fold in the egg whites using a spatula (you want to keep as much of that air as possible).
Oil spray your frying pan, or crêpe maker, and use a medium heat.
Spoon dollops of the pancake batter onto the pan/crêpemaker. Gently nudge into a circular shape and continue until all the batter is used.
Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side, but keep an eye on them. Use the spatula to easily flip each pancake.
Whilst the pancakes are cooking, crush the raspberries with a fork, keeping some texture (I used the empty whisked egg white bowl to save on washing up!). TIP: if using frozen raspberries, pop them into the microwave for 30 seconds to thaw them first.
TIME TO STACK! Pop a little of the crushed raspberries onto each pancake and stack the pancakes on top of each other. Add the remainder of the crushed raspberries to the top of the stack, allowing some to flow down the sides. Add your banana slices on the raspberries and finish with a big drizzle of your chosen chocolate sauce over your stack and around the plate. Sprinkle with the walnut pieces if using.
A super easy, light and sweet way to kickstart any day, whether you are furloughed or not! These pancakes are also great to prepare the day before to provide a quick breakfast the following morning, or a breakfast on the go! What’s more, with half a banana still left, you can make them two days in a row, furlough win!
I love a curry and believe it should definitely be a weekly meal of every household. With so many varieties of curry to choose from, from a wealth of different countries and regions, it’s no wonder it is one of Britain’s favourite dishes. Besides, the legendary dish of chicken tikka masala was born in Glasgow. Don’t you just love a random food fact? The kind of fact that could win you a pub quiz, in a time when we are allowed to quiz in our local pubs once more. Imagine that.
An authentic curry can take hours of care and attention to bring wonderful spices and fragrants together. It is totally worth it when you have the time, but not always. Sometimes all you want is for the oven to do all the work for you and I am all for that! The most important thing? It has to taste like the real deal and fill you with all the goodness a freshly homemade meal does. I rarely purchase “ready meals” as they can sometimes contain additional ingredients or “man made” additives. It is also because I just really love getting in my green tiled kitchen to cook myself and can be very health conscious, but offer me a slab of cake and I am all yours! That was until local super cyclist, Nick, from Blights Motors Limited, reached out to me in late November regarding the UK based, award winning frozen ready meal company, Cook, they had recently started to stock in their Spar store and whether I would be interested in sampling and reviewing some of the wholesome products. The fact I am sat here now typing away gives a clue into how I responded to Nick’s outreach. He basically threw a slab of carrot cake at me (my favourite cake flavour, along with victoria sponge for future reference to everyone).
Childhood Memories of a Family Run Store
Blights Motors Limited and Spar is located on Clovelly Road, Bideford, a wonderful part of town where I spent my childhood, alongside my now beanpole of a younger brother. Many a Sunday were eagerly anticipated as the day we asked Mum and Dad for a pound to scurry off to purchase a packet of sweets each; always fruit gums for me and fruit pastilles for Adam (fruit gums are obviously the superior choice). Blights always delivered the sweet goods as it was located just around the corner from home. At one point, many years later, Adam worked in the Blights Spar store, a job he thoroughly enjoyed, probably because he gave as good a banter as he got from Store Manageress, Teresa, Nick’s mother.
Always a family affair since day dot in 1933, Blights have expanded their offerings to include a wealth of food and drink options within their Spar store. As well as being the only store locally and one of 90 stores nationally to stock Cook frozen ready meals in four, yes four, specially designed large freezers to keep the products as fresh and nutritious as the day they were made, they also offer shopping delivery. Not having to leave your house and your oven does all the hard cooking work for you? Sounds like a good business investment to me.
On a side note, you will be pleased to know that on the day I met Nick at the store, socially distanced and with masks on, of course (to quote Greg James), Teresa was still giving an outpouring of friendly banter to regular local customers and of course, Nick. What are mothers for!
Ready, Steady, (Oven) Cook!
If you didn’t read that in the voice of the legendary chef, Ainsley Harriott, then please open another internet tab for YouTube. You can thank me later. Like Ready, Steady, Cook! the choice of Cooks meals offered by Blights was vast, making for a difficult decision of what to shovel into my reusable shopping bag. With the help of Nick, who has indulged in many of the Cooks offerings, and why wouldn’t you (business perks), my favourite planet hugging shopping bag was filled with two Thai inspired curries, two Indian inspired curries and two sides of flavoured rice, ready to be stored in my very un-specialised home freezer.
Reading the Cook’s leaflet and viewing their website for some background information on what myself and my fiancé, Rob, would be tucking into over the coming weeks (I do share food, sometimes), it was obvious that Cook are all about utilising fresh and sustainable produce to create delicious and nutritious meals to fill our ever hungry appetites. From the vibrant smells during the cooking to the physical eating of the meals themselves, their philosophy came steaming through right onto our taste buds.
Thailand in no Time
It’s a Wednesday evening in early November during lockdown 2.0, so what better reason to have an evening off standing over the stove to indulge in a Thai inspired feast that was ready and raring to go in half an hour. Disclaimer: it is hard to make even the most delicious curry look pretty at home, in a bowl, when all you want to do is get stuck in before it starts to cool down. My photography on these particular oven meal evenings may not do the dishes a tonne of favours, but I hope what is coming next will make you want to scurry over to the popular local family store to pick up your own curries in a hurry, like a ten year old me and eight year old Adam excitedly grabbing our packet of sweets (a polite reminder that fruit gums are the superior sweet).
Peeling back the speared film protecting the mellow yellow tinged Thai curry, a plume of steam fragrant with the scents of lemongrass, lime leaf and coconut rose through the air before being whisked away by the extractor fan and my nose. Stirred and plated with my spoon and knife primed (yes, you did read spoon), the chunky pieces of sustainably sourced chicken were soft and moreish, swimming in the creamy coconut and nut based sauce. Unlike the traditional satay that uses peanuts, Cook’s embellished its paler, creamier cousin, the cashew nut. Genius. It provided a texture that was smooth, but still had texture from the inspired inclusion of cashew nuts that coated the back of my chosen spoon. Contrasting the velvety sauce and moist chicken pieces, gnawing down on easily disguised cashew nut pieces, and vibrant slices of green beans, added a welcomed crunch every so often, that also broke the silence between Rob and I. Silence is the sound of food enjoyment. Throw onto that spoonful a small hint of spice heat and fresh fragrance of the lemongrass and lime leaf, along with the savoury seasoning of fish sauce, it is a satay you could continually enjoy on any evening other than a Wednesday.
Being the food sharing person that I am (unless it is a takeaway where I turn into Smithy from that iconic Gavin and Stacey episode), Rob and I had half of each curry to make a full curry amount, that was my logic anyway. If I am honest, I wanted all of the chicken panang curry as it was totally delicious! Do not get me wrong, the satay was on point with all its tastes and textures, but the panang was bursting with sweetness and I am all for satisfying my carrot cake loving sweet tooth from any form of meal. Contrasting the satay with its golden colour, it was sweet with coconut cream, as well as coconut milk, along with even more sweetness courtesy of tomatoes. Cubed pieces of our favourite red friend added pops of extra sweetness in some lucky mouthfuls. Flecks of the crowding splitting herb, coriander, cut through the rich sweetness of the dish with a hit of freshness that only coriander can brilliantly provide, whether you like it or not. The only time I will ever willingly betray my tastebuds with coriander is if it is discretely added to a flavoursome curry, like this Cook kitchen classic.
Coconut and Lime Leaf Rice
No curry is complete without a side of rice, especially a flavoursome rice that can be heated in our other ‘let’s make cooking easy’ friend, the microwave. Plus, as the main oven meals are recommended to be rested for a couple minutes, it is perfect timing to pop the round rice containing receptacle into the oven’s little brother. I am a huge fan of microwavable rice for days when convenience outweighs effort and this Thai inspired grain would definitely feature in future Wednesday evening endeavours. Each grain of rice held its own, unlike some varieties where you definitely get a bit of hugging between grains, and held onto a texture like it had just been drained from a large pan of salted, simmering water. The flavours of coconut and lime were subtle, but bold enough to make a potentially very boring white grain into a side worthy of a fragrant feast.
India in the Oven
Making a detour from Thailand to India on the flight in my imagination, it was now the following Friday in lockdown 2.0 and nothing screams curry night like a Friday. Equipped with our additional freezer staples of onion bhajis and vegetable samosas to complete every curry evening in our house, expectations were high and, thankfully, not brought back down to earth.
Deep and rich in colour, this take on an Indian classic was thankfully less spicy than your average madras curry *wipes sweat from brow in relief*. Opening the oven door once more, the air was filled with the aroma of an Indian banquet my controversial spoon and knife duo was ready for. The intense, deep red colour of the sauce was filled with soft and sweet onions and tomatoes, spiked with the gentle heat of chilli and smokiness of cumin contained in the base of the madras. Thickened with ground almonds, the nutty addition added a comforting texture to the sauce and a welcoming earthy taste only almonds can bring to the plate. The star of the show, however, were the melting pieces of beef. Not normally a meat utilised within Indian cooking, this adaptation was a triumph as it the beef stood up to the bold flavours of the brilliant sauce on its hind legs. My choice of cutlery cemented the triumphant meat choice as you could literally cut it with a spoon. Soft to cut and soft on the palate, the sign of a well looked after piece of protein.
Roasted Vegetable and Chickpea Curry
From the hearty and robust combination of madras and beef, comes the simplicity of pulses, vegetables and spices. I love vegetarian food and vegetables are the star of many, if not all, meals in my eyes along with a token side of veg always. Full to the brim with roasted peppers, onions and cauliflower, each vegetable in this plant friendly curry was soft, but still with a bite to keep our texture sensors happy. As with all Cook’s curries thus far, the sauce was thick with the powerhouse of lentils, with pops of nude chickpeas amongst the vibrant orange colour created by sweet tomatoes. The al dente chickpeas matched the earthy taste of spinach that mingled its way into each spoonful. Warm spices in the background of each mouthful rounded off a light, but super filling bowl of goodness.
Just call me Ainsley on this Friday November night as I ‘plated’ the golden side dish using a small bowl to create a mound of carbohydrate filled comfort in the middle of the two fantastic curries above *applause fades*. Strong with the undeniable flavour of cardamom and cloves, this pilau was the perfect accompaniment. Peas-a-plenty provided freshness and glorious colour that jumped out of the plate, dazzling the eyes. As with the Thai rice, there was no breaking of social distancing rules between grains, each keeping themselves to themselves.
Please Blights, I Want Some More
If it wasn’t for Nick sending a simple message about the offering his family business had for locals like me, I would probably have missed out on two lazier than normal curry evenings during my birthday month of November. I also wouldn’t have discovered the no-nonsense ready meal providers of Cook. This range of frozen ready meals are at the higher end of the cost scale, but they are totally worth that extra pound because even though you are not cooking it per se yourself, you know that the ingredients that have gone into making your meal are what you would choose yourself.
All in all, Blights will be making my next essential lockdown 3.0 food shop a little more expensive, but I am more than okay with that and so is my freezer.
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Pass the carrot sticks, pepper pieces and cucumber slices (or crudités if you are feeling particularly posh on this fine Thursday morning) because it is time to tip, blitz and dip. Add to that a few slightly salted, crunchy tortilla chips and you have yourself a set up worthy of a party, if we were currently allowed a party. Sofa tapas it is! No tapas night or general day to day snack pot would be complete without the creamy and soft plant based power house that is hummus. Paired with your favourite vegetables, or even added to a wrap or spread on a piece of wholemeal toast, it will keep you full and ready to power through the rest of your fun filled day. As with all homemade delights of our pre-packaged favourites, we know exactly what is going into the creation. The best part? We are free to pimp it out full blast to suit our ever individual taste buds! Time to blitz!
This recipe makes enough hummus for a number of days’ worth of snacks or a couple of tapas sessions, depending on whether you can stop dipping. It is fully vegan too and has endless flavour opportunities which are discussed further down so no hummus making session needs to be the same.
Time: 15 minutes
Makes: 3-4 days’ worth of snack size portions, or 1-2 larger meal portions
400g can of chickpeas
One garlic clove
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper
Add the 400g can of chickpeas and some of the water into the food processor.
Add the garlic clove and lemon juice.
Season with salt and pepper.
Blitz the ingredients to the texture you desire. For a super smooth hummus, this will take about 2-3 minutes. TIP: if the mixture is a little dry, or you just prefer it wetter, continue to add more of the chickpea water during blitzing until you reach your desired consistency.
Use the spatula to scrape all the hummus into a bowl if you are eating straight away or an airtight container (or containers if you’re super prepped), and keep in the fridge ready for snack time.
Before blitzing (step 5) is where you can get creative adding flavours to your hummus. Nothing is really off limits and these are some of my particular favourites:
Sun Dried Tomatoes – a handful of Mediterranean favourite will give a tangy punch of tomato.
Pesto – a teaspoon or two will do the trick as pesto can be quite a strong flavour. If you are vegan, be sure to check the packaging to be safe the pesto contains vegan cheese.
Nut Butter – tahini (sesame seed butter) works particularly well in hummus, but any butter will give a unique, nutty flavour.
Roasted Vegetables – think beetroot, onion, or red peppers, for example, for an even bigger veg packed snack with rich flavour.
Spices – a teaspoon or two adds instant flavour. Try smoked paprika or ground cumin to take your tastebuds around the world.
Herbs – fresh or dried, herbs add another instant hit of fresh flavour. If using dried, one to two teaspoons will do the trick. If using fresh, tear off a big handful.
Sweet Hummus – really mix up the hummus party by adding a tablespoon of cocoa powder, a drop of vanilla extract and a few pitted Medjool dates for a sweet treat (just don’t add the salt or pepper!).
Super simple and super healthy! The perfect snack that can be enjoyed on the go, at work, in a sandwich, on top of a rice cake, or on the comfort of your own sofa.
Three of my obsessions strike again: carrot cake; overripe-looking-sorry-for-themselves bananas; and the simple goodness of flapjack. If you can combine these three oddities to make a banging bowl of carrot cake porridge, it is only natural to combine them once more to expand the ever growing carrot cake-esque community. It wasn’t going to be long before lockdown 1.0 birthed this expansion to flapjack within my favourite green tiled room; my kitchen. Like my first healthier flapjack recipe, this recipe uses up those bananas we couldn’t quite eat in time, without subjecting ourselves to being a lockdown banana bread baker (I am yet to bake a banana bread), so let’s repeat it all again with flapjack 2.0!
This recipe makes enough soft and slightly spiced flapjack to feed you and a few others, depending how big you like your slabs and also how much you like your friends. It is vegetarian and dairy free and can also be made vegan by swapping in your preferred vegan ingredients. Let’s get mashing and mixing!
Carrot Cake Flapjack 2.0
Total time: 20 minutes
Makes: 10-12 squares
Spatula for mixing and flattening
Tablespoon measurement spoon
Baking tin lined on the bottom with greaseproof paper (I used ~a 10″x7″ tin)
Two overripe bananas
Soya milk (or whatever milk you have)
1-2 tsp of mixed spice
Preheat your oven to 180c.
Mash the bananas in the mixing bowl with the fork.
Grate the carrot into the mixing bowl.
Add the oats. TIP: if they are jumbo oats, blitz them slightly in a food processor first.
Sprinkle in the mixed spice (add more or less depending on your preference) and mix the ingredients together with the spatula.
Add a few splashes of your chosen milk, a tablespoon of honey and mix so it becomes a reasonably wet mixture.
Pop the mixture into the lined baking tin, flatten slightly with the spatula and put into the middle of the oven to bake for around 15 minutes.
Allow to cool and cut into pieces.
Enjoy as a tasty snack, a quick on the go breakfast, a pre or post workout munch, or even in a bowl with some creamy Greek yoghurt.
These veg filled flapjacks are super quick, easy and tasty! They will last for a good few days, assuming you can control yourself from not eating them all on the first day! If they do manage to survive, put the flapjacks into an airtight container and into the fridge to enjoy when you crave something sweet, or need a little pick me up! Plus, they are easy to make fully vegan; just swap the honey for your desired sweet alternative.
Who doesn’t love a snack? It is pretty much a legitimate reason to put something else tasty in your mouth in between the standard three meals a day we all know and love, and what isn’t to love about that. Not a lot in my eyes, or mouth, we are talking about food here. Like all meals of the day, snacks can become monotonous, samey, boring and sometimes a bit beige, unless that beige food is a big handful of tortilla chips pimped out with a side of multiple dips at a party of course (my favourite treat snack every so often that now takes place at the weekend as part of a sofa party). In all snack based seriousness, this second blog with Chantal aims to provide everyone who reads it with easily digestible information on the benefits of choosing healthier snacks, ideas for more exciting (non-beige) snacks and our favourite ‘go to’ snacks. We are both creatures of habit! Time to start snacking.
Why We Snack
As the word suggests, a snack is very much a small portion of food to keep you ticking over, particularly if you are prone to the dreaded ‘hanger’, as Chantal and myself very much are! I reiterate from our first blog all about breakfast; can you imagine a boot camp session with Chantal if she was even the slightest bit hangry? I still, to this day, do not want to think about it. During the day, snacks help in maintaining our blood sugar at a balanced level which keeps our bodies and brains energised for whatever glorious activities we have planned. Our brains primarily function on a supply of glucose (sugar metabolised from carbohydrates) – no one wants a “brain fart” (a phrase I have coined that I hope might catch on) during an important work meeting or an exam, for example. Snacking is also a fantastic way to incorporate many additional nutrients into your diet, providing extra love your body and brain will thank you for!
Snack for You
As with everything in life, snacking is person dependent. We are all wonderfully different. Due to our awesomely individual lifestyles and health goals, our snacking will probably vary as well. Chantal, for example, has an extremely active job and, therefore, snacks between two and three times per day; mid-morning, mid-afternoon and sometimes in the evening. Whereas compared to an individual with a more sedentary, office based job, snacking might be less often, or the snack of choice lower in calories. Talking of the “c word” (sorry, I’m not a massive fan of it either), snacks can be an easy way to unknowingly pile on the calories day to day, impacting health goals positively or negatively. This increase in calorie intake may not be great for someone wanting to lose weight, but on the other hand, it might be beneficial for someone wanting to gain weight or who is expending higher amounts of energy because of their training demands. Our choice of snack and portion size of said snack is something else we should bear in mind.
Snack Choice and Portion Size
As I sit here typing away getting progressively more hungry thinking about the snack ideas coming up shortly (hang in there!), the phrase “too much of a good thing” springs to mind. Some healthy foods are very calorie dense, so even though they are healthy by providing us with glorious vitamins and nutrients, an unsuitable portion size, i.e. one that is too big, would rocket the calories through the snack roof (if we had a snack van, of course), impacting daily calorie intake and potentially an individual’s health goals. Nuts, for example, are a fantastic snack that I am all for; I LOVE nuts and peanut butter, as you will probably know from previous blogs. Nuts are full of body building protein and nutrients, but high in calories because they contain a large amount of good fats, so it is important to note how many you can have to fit with your health goals. I have to stop myself from eating peanut butter straight out of the jar, with no spoon (not ashamed), for this exact reason *wipes single tear falling from eye*. On the flip side, eating 500 bright orange carrots, full of vitamin A and potassium, probably won’t do us any favours either and would turn us into Bugs Bunny. Our favourite fluffy cartoon character needs another “b word” in his life; balance! And probably more protein.
Pack in the Protein
Protein is a great nutrient to base snacks upon. Choosing snacks higher in protein will keep us fuller for longer whilst also repairing and maintaining our muscles, particularly important after a brutal boot camp session with Chantal! A lot of people do not consume enough protein in their diet so protein rich snacks are a great way to increase our intake without even knowing (sneaky!). Some of our favourite protein packed snacks include:
Yoghurt – we both love Fage yoghurt in particular which is thick, creamy and higher in protein and lower in calories per 100g serving. Be careful when choosing yoghurt as some contain a deceptively high amount of sugar. Choose plain yoghurt and you are free to add your own fruit, nuts, etc., knowing no yucky stuff has been added!
Beans – rich in plant protein beans such as chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans etc., make a fantastic snack you can eat with your hands. TIP: to make beans more interesting, dab them dry with a cloth, sprinkle over your favourite herbs and spices and roast on a baking tray for 20 minutes or so at 180-200 degrees. The beans will turn crunchy and hold onto the flavourings.
Peanut Butter – couldn’t not be included! Spread on wholemeal toast, rice cakes, add to a smoothie, the possibilities are endless, just be careful with the amount used.
Cheese – yes, cheese! Made from milk, cheese is full of protein, but like our friend the nut, portion carefully as it is also very calorie dense. Add your favourite to a cracker, rice cake, or even a bit of fruit if you’re feeling a bit snazzy!
Eggs – the powerhouse of protein is not just for breakfast. Boil a couple for a quick snack with a small side of vegetables; spinach and tomatoes work really well.
Protein Bar/Shake – if short of time, protein bars and shakes are a quick and easy way to get a filling snack on the go. As with a lot of pre-made goods, check the nutrients table on the packaging to make sure it is suitable for your goals and energy needs.
Mix and Match Your Snacks
Seven days in a week is a lot of time to mix and match your snacks, no day should totally be the same! Whether it is changing which piece of fruit to have each day, altering yoghurt flavourings, pairing yoghurts or dips with different vegetables, or spreading your rice cakes and toast with something other than peanut butter (I don’t know why I have suggested that), there are many ways to keep snacking fun, varied and not boring. I love a carrot stick as much as the next person, but there are many ways to up your snack game from average to down right awesome, so let’s get snacking!
Strong Snack Game
The part of the blog we have all been waiting for (well, I have anyway); the creating and building of healthy snacks to keep you full throughout the day and your body and brain functioning at their peak. This section of the blog will provide you with ideas for making what can be quite boring ingredients to tasty snacks you will look forward to eating (all hail the rice cake!) and links to recipes I have created so far, which will be added to as more are developed.
The Flapjack Snack
We all know the score with a really good, sweet and sticky flapjack: lots and lots of sugar! Fantastic as a treat every so often to indulge in the comfort of childhood, but not as sustainable as a day to day snack; childhood ruined! However, making simple changes to this oat based treat does not make it any less worthy. Preparing a batch for the week ahead could not be easier. Fast forward around 20 minutes later and you have a delicious energy and nutrient filled snack for 100 calories or less, assuming you don’t cut the slabs too big, or end up diving in for one more! I wouldn’t blame you if you did; I have. The flavour combinations are endless and these creations will hit the sweet spot:
The ever pesky, overripe bananas provide the sweetness for these healthier flapjacks and the minimal cooking keeps them moist (trial and error led me to this conclusion). Oats are a great source of protein as well as carbohydrates. Think of these as an on the go, hand held bowl of porridge. In addition, on those days of greater hunger or energy expenditure, the flapjacks make a great addition to a yoghurt bowl (that’s next) and also make a great breakfast on the go. Childhood memories restored!
“The Yog Bowl”
As I said above, our favourite yoghurt is coincidentally the same *audience gasps*. Fage is a thick Greek style yoghurt that tastes creamy and delicious. Shopping around, pretty much all of the well-known supermarkets offer their own label of Greek yoghurt to satisfy our hunger pangs (and our wallets). The 0% fat versions provide extra bonus points in the form of approximately 10 grams of protein, minimal sugar and calories per 100g *audience gasps louder*. All the more reason to throw some extra nutrients and flavours at this ridiculously white ingredient to create a filling and colourful yog bowl (yog rolls off the tongue, don’t you think?):
Mixed Berries – fresh or frozen, berries work so well with its creamy friend. If using frozen fruits (much cheaper and last longer than fresh), defrost them slightly in the microwave for 30-40 seconds and mix into the yoghurt. Our favourites are blueberries, raspberries or strawberries.
Fruit and Nut – or seeds, or nut butter. Nuts, seeds or nut butter add a crunchy texture to this otherwise smooth fruit and yoghurt bowl. Just a teaspoon or two is enough to do the trick.
Favourite Cereal – adds texture and sweetness! Think cereal that would normally be seen as an unhealthier option and add a small handful for a sweet, crunchy hit. I normally have a back of the cupboard stash of a favourite cereal for this kind of snack every so often.
Citrus and Tropical Fruits – sliced banana, orange segments, kiwi, apple pieces, pear, the list goes on! Mix them up or enjoy them for their own worth for all the vitamins and minerals. As above, an addition of nuts, seeds or nut spread adds extra healthy fats and protein.
Drizzle – no yog bowl is complete without an extra drizzle! The market is full of healthier drizzle worthy products such as flavoured syrups and liquid chocolate. My current favourite is the range from Sweet Freedom UK or a gloriously golden drizzle of the famously local Quince Honey Farm Devon honey.
Pimped up Rice Cakes
Dry? Cardboard? Beige? Just down right boring? No way! Chantal and I love a rice cake! It even has the word ‘cake’ built in, what’s not to love! Yes they can be all of the above, making a mediocre snack, but add the right toppings and you won’t want to stop eating them. Sweet or savoury, the combinations are pretty much endless, limited only by our taste buds and foodie imaginations.
Sweet Rice Cake Ideas:
Chantal’s Favourite Nutella and Berries – a small teaspoon of Nutella goes a long way! Spread over the rice cake and top with a handful of berries such as blueberries, raspberries or strawberries for a great chocolate combo.
Leanne’s Favourite Peanut Butter and “Jam” – a small teaspoon of crunchy peanut butter (or whatever your preferred nut butter) topped with sliced strawberries (the “jam”). The fruit will add natural sweetness and vitamins compared to our favourite jarred fruit spread.
Chantal’s Favourite Yoghurt and Berries – our good friend the yog sneaks in again for another filling snack! Spread the yoghurt over the rice cake and again top with your berries of choice. This is also one of my go to combos as well.
Leanne’s Favourite Peanut Butter and Banana – spread a small teaspoon of peanut or nut butter and top with a few slices of banana. A sweet and savoury combination!
Yog and Drizzle – a little drizzle of a favourite light sauce/syrup gives sweetness if you don’t fancy the fruit. Dollop and spread the yog before a glossy drizzle on top.
Dippy Rice Cakes – to save on a little bit of mess (yog moustache), mix the berries/Nutella/nut butter/drizzle straight into the yog pot and promote the rice cake to a spoon.
Savoury Rice Cake Ideas:
Light Cheese and Vegetables – lighter cheeses such as ricotta, mascarpone or the famous Philadelphia spread are great to add to a plain rice cake. A teaspoon or two won’t rocket the calories like other cheeses and still gives that savoury hint. Sliced tomatoes or cucumber make an easy vegetable topping and their flavours combine nicely with the soft cheese. A favourite of mine is ricotta, tomatoes and a sprinkle of basil.
Light Cheese and Fruits – fruits such as grapes and figs work really well with soft cheeses, although, sweet and savoury isn’t everyone’s cup of tea!
Avocado and Vegetables – if you are an avocado fan, a teaspoon or two spread over a rice cake is a winner with its creamy and smooth texture. Like nuts, avocado contains a lot of good fats making it another to watch out for with its higher calorie count. A good grind of black pepper, topped with sliced tomatoes, for example, make for another light snack.
Just think of rice cakes like you would a piece of wholemeal toast. Speaking of which, all of the above make terrific toast toppings for those days where a rice cake may just not cut the mustard.
Another of Chantal’s favourite snacks is hummus with carrot and cucumber sticks. Chickpeas are full of plant protein and very low in sugar and fat, making it a perfect snack. Preparing your own batch of hummus will make enough for three to four snack servings to merrily dip in your chosen crudités. As well as a snack, hummus is also a fantastic edition to a wrap, sandwich, rice cake or wholemeal toast for something a little bit different. This bowl of hummus goodness could not be easier (or faster) to create at home with just three store cupboard ingredients:
As with a lot of products, like the hummus recipe above, preparing your own smoothies ensures you know every single ingredient that goes in. Smoothies are an easy way to pack lots of nutrients into your diet from whole fruit and vegetables. Including fresh vegetables as well as a bit of fruit will help keep the sugar content down and, therefore, calories. Using a splash of water or blending with ice cubes will help loosen the smoothie, depending on how thick you like them and keep the ingredient cool and fresh. In addition, including milk, yoghurt or a teaspoon of nut butter into the smoothie blend gives another hit of protein to keep hunger at bay.
Super Smoothie Ideas:
Banana and strawberry
Banana and nut
Apple, kale, spinach, celery and mint
Mango, kale and spinach
Pineapple, mango and coconut water
Our Final Favourites
If you have made it here without grabbing a quick bite to eat, I salute you, because I definitely munched my way through a rice cake or two whilst typing (the irony). So, as a reward, here are a final few snacks Chantal and I enjoy when hunger strikes:
Soup – as it can be so low in calories, soup is not just for lunch.
Overnight Oats – see our breakfast blog for lots of ideas on how to make your overnight oats more than just oats.
Air Popped Popcorn – corn kernels are readily available in the supermarket. Just pop a handful into a microwaveable bowl, cover and microwave until the popping slows to about 1-2 pops. TIP: grind over a little salt and pepper or sprinkle over some spices for a savoury popcorn. For a sweeter taste, grate over a square of dark chocolate or drizzle a bit of honey.
Dates and Peanut Butter – my absolute favourite go to mini snack! Slice open one or two Medjool dates, remove the stone if not already and spread in a little nut butter (crunchy peanut butter is my winner). Just a couple of dates are enough as they are higher in sugar due to being a dried fruit.
Whole Fruit – banana, apple, pear, orange, whatever it may be, you can’t beat a simply sweet piece of fruit.
If you are vegetarian, vegan, gluten or dairy free, the majority of everything discussed can be substituted for your favourite diet alternative. Soya milk and yoghurt are higher in protein than other replacements, along with many other variations of cheese, bread and cereals to keep snacking fun and suitable for you.
The Snack Life Chose Us
We really hope this blog has been an enjoyable and inspiring read! Snacking is part of day to day life that plays an important role in whatever health goal we are working towards. It also gives a respite from all the things we are completing each day, ready to continue will full stomachs and satisfied taste buds.
We would love to hear your feedback to this blog and see all the wonderful snacks you create. Tag us on Instagram and Facebook.
There might be a particular day dedicated to using up all our bits and bobs in the kitchen cupboard, but pancakes are best enjoyed all year round and not always just for breakfast. Whether it’s sweet, savoury or a mixture of both that takes your fancy, the amount of flavour combinations to pimp up your epic stack of pancakes is endless and best of all, totally down to you.
I’ll be honest right away and say I was one of those people who every year on that specific day would enjoy stuffing my face with platefuls of sugar and lemon doused pancakes to only then say mid sugar rush; “I should really eat pancakes more often”. Never a truer statement! Throwing it back to my first and so far only trip to Walt Disney World, I fell in love with the legendary sweet and savoury combo of bacon and syrup. I mean, how had I only just discovered this genius mouthful at the age of 26? Before anyone asks, yes I did wear my “first visit” badge for the whole 14 days we were there (it was probably the best two weeks of my life so far, fact). Roll forward (or flip, we are talking about pancakes here) to lockdown 2020 and taking time to create glorious stacks of fluffy pancakes, layered and embellished with an abundance of flavours, textures and colours has become a weekly joy in my green tiled kitchen (I love my green tiles). Especially this American classic.
This recipe makes enough just for you (you deserve it) but if you really want to make it a pancake party, just multiply the amounts for the amount of stomachs you need to feed. The main pancake ingredients can also be swapped for your favourite alternatives to make the batter vegan and dairy free, but also to add other subtle flavours; for example, almond milk for a nuttier batter. Obviously, you can swap the toppings too for a vegan pancake stack delight.
Fluffy Pancake Batter
Total Time: 20 minutes
Makes: 3-4 pancakes, depending how big you like to make them
Electric or hand whisk
Crepe maker and frying pan, or two frying pans
40ml milk of choice
40g self-raising flour
Oil spray (I used FryLight)
Garlic salt (optional – I just love the flavour it gives the pancakes)
Separate the egg and place the yolk into one bowl and the white into the other bowl.
Weigh out 40g of self-raising flour and 40ml of milk into the egg yolk bowl.
Add a sprinkle of garlic salt, if using, to the same bowl and mix the ingredients together.
Using the electric or hand whisk, whisk the egg whites until they are fluffy and a hold a peak.
Add the whisked egg whites to the egg yolk bowl and gently fold into the mixture with the spatula (you want to keep as much of that air as possible).
Oil spray you frying pan or crepe maker and use a medium heat.
Spoon dollops of the pancake batter onto the pan/crepe maker. Gently nudge into a circular shape and continue until all the batter is used.
Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side, but keep an eye on them. Use the spatula to easily flip each pancake.
Whilst the pancakes are cooking, medium heat another frying pan and cook the bacon rashers to your liking.
TIME TO STACK! Spread a thin layer of ricotta onto each pancake. Stack the pancakes and add the two bacon rashers on top. Drizzle the syrup starting above the stack and circle from smaller to larger circles to cover the stack and the plate. Sprinkle with dried parsley.
A super easy and delicious way to transport yourselves to the sunnier and warmer climes of Florida. Pop on a Disney film at the same time as devouring your epic stack and you are basically there!
Made this recipe? I would love to know! Tag me on Instagram and Facebook using the hashtag #oneshyfoodie
This is the sixth in my “mini blogs” series to spread the word of the amazing local hospitality businesses in our local area who will be offering takeaway services over the coming weeks. I wanted to share my experiences of the takeaways I have had this year in condensed write ups to support the industry and also show all the amazing treats we can have too!
The rise in plant based cuisine has been ridiculous the past few years and I, for one, am a massive fan. A big fruit and vegetable lover anyway, vegan plates always catch my eye for something totally different to fill my ever hungry stomach. Now more than ever eateries are expanding their offerings to include wonderful vegan delights, even in little old North Devon! If you haven’t ventured down the A39 to hastily make your way to Gammon Walk to only be stopped by the invitingly vibrant and golden doors of Roots, you haven’t eaten mind blowingly awesome vegan food yet.
Before even stepping foot through the golden entrance, the whole colour spectrum dances towards you through the right hand window; the greens of coriander (I am slowly becoming less of a hater), the vivid orange of grated carrot, to name just a couple, along with the beaming smiles of the wonderful Roots staff. Eyes fed, but stomach still hungry, time to make my first trip to Roots a reality, swiftly followed by the second a few weeks later.
The Roots and Shoots
During the limbo between lockdown 1.0 and 2.0, I was lucky enough to be hit by all these colours and smacked with tonnes of flavour twice in the form of their amazing salad boxes. “Salad?!” I hear you say? Yes, but not as you know it! Two glorious salad boxes inspired by Middle Eastern and Indian flavours full to the brim. I have to thank my friend Maria for my first trip; she was the winner of a Roots like and share competition in which she won a free lunch for her and a friend and that chosen friend was me! Maria, I am forever grateful! Amongst all the choices, I decided upon the Middle Eastern for my debut salad box. Full of so many ingredients I love to eat, every mouthful was a joy (except the last, that is always an emotional moment with any meal). The crushed falafel exterior was dark like treacle encasing a herb filled soft interior. The textures from both ends of the spectrum were crunchy and smooth against my jaw. The light and creamy hummus was full of tongue kicking spice before being gently cooled by the mint yoghurt dressing. Vivid white yoghurt, speckled with fresh mint, refreshed my pallet ready to savour the incoming flavours. Soft and sweet chickpeas; perfectly cooked couscous with red pepper pieces, sweetcorn and coriander; a carrot salad dancing with earthy, nutty sesame seeds showered in a light dressing, which made it glisten slightly like the downpour of August rain outside. All from plants? I knew instantly this would not be my only visit.
One more salad box before we sprint towards the gorgeous fudge cake, because we all know by now that cake is life. On a sunny September lunchtime after a wonderfully wet and undisturbed weekly swim at Barnstaple Leisure Centre, Roots called my name. It was extremely difficult not to respond when I was that close. Plus, I also knew they had a particularly inviting special that week; baked cauliflower bhaji, coriander chutney and sev. I am a sucker for interesting takes on cauliflower because it is a vegetable that can be transformed from boring to mind blowing. The bhaji was beautifully rustic with peaks and troughs providing a satisfying crunch in every bite, whilst your teeth dug their way through into the soft cauliflower centre. This cauliflower centre was brimming with spice and dancing with the perfect partner of caramelised onions in a wonderful display of the Indian snack favourite. The coriander chutney bopped alongside with a pop of freshness that was not overpowering, even for this minor coriander phobe. Finished with the gnawing texture of gleaming, golden sev, it was a full blown dance off from box to bite. Now it’s full steam ahead to the vegan chocolate fudge cake of dreams.
The Vegan Chocolate Fudge Cake
Roots offer a fantastic lunchtime meal deal of one of their main menu dishes with a drink and either a packet of crisps, or a slice of homemade cake. You can imagine the predicament Maria and I had stumbled upon that damp September lunchtime; cake or crisps? After much deliberation for approximately five seconds (I know you all expected a much shorter time) we both decided upon the enticing, deeply rich looking vegan chocolate fudge cake that was staring at us from across the flamboyant vegetable filled counter.
Primed and ready with our forks, it was time to treat ourselves to our endearing looking triangular slices of chocolate heaven. The “buttercream” was so immensely glossy we could pretty much see our happy faces reflecting right back at us, with a sheen similar to that of post sunburn from a day much nicer than this one. Making our first delve, our forks were loaded and the air around us promptly filled with an intensely rich chocolate aroma. Silence fell upon us. The sponges were gloriously moist. So soft in fact that our teeth barely needed to make an effort. The texture was as light as a feather, but full to the brim with the rich taste of bitter dark chocolate. We had reached our lunchtime peak, or so we thought. Bring on the “buttercream!”. Luxuriously gooey and velvety, the “buttercream” almost left a satisfying thin chocolate film on the roof of our mouths, in a totally good way, know what I mean? It didn’t take us long (probably less than five seconds in fact) for Maria and I to realise that we were most certainly finishing these heavenly chocolate slices lying effortlessly on our paper plates.
And the best part? From start to finish, this beautiful cake was crafted fully from the produce of mother nature. It was full blown vegan. Plant central, which must mean it is one of your five a day and therefore, healthy in the grand scheme of cake, right?
Yes it does.
Roots are currently offering an evening takeaway service showcasing an array of Middle Eastern, Indian and Mexican inspired dishes. From curries to wraps, burgers and even cottage pie, there is something for everyone to hit that vegan spot.
This is the fifth in my “mini blogs” series to spread the word of the amazing local hospitality businesses in our local area who will be offering takeaway services over the coming weeks. I wanted to share my experiences of the takeaways I have had this year in condensed write ups to support the industry and also show all the amazing treats we can have too!
Whether it’s for an occasion such as a birthday, or just celebrating the fact you have made it to Friday and cannot be bothered to enter your own kitchen, a takeaway in any form is such a wonderful treat and definitely always deserved (I mean, come on, we made it to another Friday!). I love a takeaway as much as the next person and there is one particular take out that gets me excited beyond measure: cake. If there was a cake excitement scale, I would fly off the top. But not just cake. Oh no, any sweet bake; flapjack, loafs, breads, tiffin, tarts, the list goes on. Last week I purchased the most delightful slab of cake (and I mean SLAB) as a walking pit stop treat with my awesome Mum from the popular Bideford cafe, Quay 22.
Savoury Before Sweet
It will come as no surprise that our windy lunchtime walk was planned around grabbing lunch along the way from a cafe we have had the pleasure of eating delicious food with many times and this particular November Thursday was no different. Located on Bideford Quay overlooking the River Torridge, Quay 22 have adapted their quaint cafe into a brilliant takeaway service with a window display to fill the eyes with joy and stomach with hunger; a window brimming with fresh homemade cakes and sweet treats! It was inevitable we were both going to add cake to our order; I get my sweet tooth from Mother Glover.
Deciding my savoury lunch was just as difficult as deciding which cake delight I wanted. The array of fillings available from the classic tuna mayonnaise to the more modern triumph of halloumi and sweet chilli made my pre-birthday treat decision longer than normal. Throw into the mix the offering of laying said fillings into either a panini, sandwich or wrap, I had to let the lady standing two metres behind me order first because I could have quite frankly chosen them all.
Tuna mayonnaise melt panini in hand, I was happy with my decision and the first bite confirmed it. Warm to hold with the distinguished dark panini press marks dancing diagonally across the lightly coloured bread, the panini was filled with chunky tuna pieces swimming in creamy white mayonnaise. The melted cheddar cheese flowed over the sea of tuna like the sun; yellow, warm and making everyone smile with its golden beam. The best things in life are simple and this was one of those simple things executed to its full glory. Now it was time for cake.
Carrot Cake Face
As much as I loved my panini, it was always about the cake. From the beautiful display of a good ten bakes, the ever faithful carrot cake won my affection once more. Carefully opening the brown paper bag the wedge of happiness was lovingly put upon a recyclable plate, the aromas of mixed spiced and cinnamon were powerful and welcoming. The sponge was a rich brown, deep orange colour, contrasting the bright white thick buttercream layers that beamed from in between the moist and even layers. Complete with a wooden fork, it was time to dive in face first. Eating cake with a fork is rule, in my opinion, and this recyclable fork was in for a treat. Through the fork, I could feel the sponge was soft and moist whilst my eyes ate up the satisfyingly even texture of the sponge. The buttercream held and perched itself perfectly upon the vegetable filled sponge. The Christmassy spices warmed my taste buds; this was definitely the most strongly spiced carrot cake I have ever eaten and it was a complete joy. The buttercream soothed the abundant spices with its luxuriously creamy taste and a texture that was so light, I thought the November gusts might blow it straight into the river. Finally, pieces of walnut added a nutty crunch to the wonderful mouthful. I had to stop myself from devouring the whole piece in one sitting. My reasoning? I wanted to eat my dinner later that evening, but mostly importantly, if I saved half the cake, I could enjoy it once more on the comfort of my sofa in my fluffy pyjamas.