04 November 2012

Mrs Beeton's Parsnip Soup with a Twist

At work we like to talk (a lot!) and a large percentage of the time its about food which led to 'soup talk' and I realised I'd never made Parsnip Soup.  Hunting through my umpteen cook books, I stumbled across a recipe in one of my old Mrs Beeton cook books. And if it was good enough for Isabella Mary Beeton, its good enough for me.  So here it goes:

  • 25g butter
  • 1 onion - chopped
  • 450g parsnips - chopped, I found 2 big ones worked
  • 1 litre chicken stock or you can use vegetable stock - I use Knor stock cubes
  • 150ml single cream
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Dash of cumin - this is the twist which Mrs B doesn't include
  • Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the chopped onion and peeled/chopped parsnips, and cook over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes, turning frequently to coat them in butter.
  • Add the chicken stock, salt, pepper and dash of cumin seasoning to taste.  Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the parsnips are very soft.
  • Puree the soup in a blender/food processor.  Add back into the pan, reheat to just below boiling point then stir in most of the cream reserving approx 2 teaspoons for the garnish.
  • You can add pine nuts but I didn't - here's what to do if you wish to: spread out the pine nuts in a grill pan and toast them under a hot grill until golden. Ladle the soup into bowls and top each portion with a swirl of cream and sprinkling of toasted pine nuts.
  • I ended up adding parsley as my garnish and served with Irish soda bread and it tasted scrummy. 
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19 September 2012

Ryan Keen Review

Thursday 6th September, icci 360 Dome, Weymouth

Beginning of September was the second time I attended a Ryan Keen gig in about a month, and once again he didn’t disappoint. You always get a different perspective of an artist second time round; as you kind of know what to expect, but you also pick up on the little things that you didn’t notice first time round.

The dome is a funky little venue which was part of a Plymouth Uni project and has hosted lots of cultural events over the Olympic summer in Weymouth from comedy nights, films, to super star DJ Judge Jules.

Ryan Keen with a giant Jelly Fish in the background

Ryan's set was about an hour playing songs from his current EP Aiming for the Sun and latest one Focus, featuring songs Focus, See me Now, In My Mind and Orelia he also played a fabulous acoustic version of Coldplay’s Fix You and finished off with a crowd pleaser the Killers All these things that I’ve done and interacting with the crowd in a 2 part harmony, which left the dome with a happy warm electric buzz feeling, wanting and knowing that this is most certainly not the last we’ve seen or heard of Ryan Keen.
He announced some exciting news about touring with Newton Faulkner as a guest artist on a duet together and hinted at a future song dueting with a very well known ginger singer – hmm I wonder who that could be? One thing’s for sure, he won’t be back playing in Weymouth again for a while.

To catch Ryan on his autumn tour head to www.ryankeen.co.uk

Gig rating: 4.5/5

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05 September 2012

Music Lust List

The other night I started a new music list in preparation for my trip to New York at the end of the month and thought it would just be a few albums to add to the iPhone/Pod – oh no it turned out to be a very long list of 8 albums. Here’s my long list, might need some advice on shortening it otherwise I’m going to be broke before I even board the plane to NYC and that wouldn’t be good!

Vaccines – old album ‘What did you expect from Vaccines’ and the new album ‘Come of Age’. I’ve just booked tickets to see The Vaccines in November at the Bournemouth O2 Academy so these are a must.

Two Door Cinema Club – ‘Beacon’. I loved the first album ‘Tourist History’ so the second album is bound to be good?

Plan B – ‘ill Manors’ – It’s Plan B and will be full of catchy tunes which I need in my life, enough said

Fun – ‘Some Night’s’ – I love that single ‘We are Young’ so a good enough reason to buy the rest of the album?

Black Keys – ‘El Camino’ – so this album has been around since last spring, but I do need this in my life.

Twin Atlantic - ‘Free’ – I’ve heard nothing but great things about this band over the summer, and I don’t want to miss out on the band wagon.

Bloc Party – ‘Four’ – Its Bloc Party, need I say more.

So, if anyone has any advice on ones to cut down on let me know or if you have any music recommendations .. well there’s always room for a few more!

19 August 2012

Carrot Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery

I love cupcakes! And for my birthday a good friend bought be the Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery recipe book.  So, I thought I'd give the Carrot Cupcake recipe a go, as it was sure to be healthy - right?

This recipe is meant to make 15 regular cupcakes, however, I opted out from using corn oil and ended up making 9 big cupcakes.

  • 225g carrots, peeled and trimmed (I peeled the carrots, but I think grating might be better next time for texture)
  • 120g raisins
  • 2 large free range eggs
  • 130g caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Grated zest of 1 orange - you need 2 teaspoons
  • 120g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I didn't have cinnamon so used mixed spices)
  • 120ml corn oil (I left this out and the cakes came out and tasted fine)

1.Preheat the oven to 160C and line a muffin tray with cupcake cases.
2. Finely grate the carrots and drain off any liquid.
3. Combine the grated carrots and raisins in a large bowl using a wooden spoon and put to one side.
4. In a large mixing bowl beat the eggs and sugar together for several minutes and then add the vanilla extract and orange zest and beat well.  This is where you would add the corn oil.
5. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cinnamon/mixed spices into a separate bowl, then gradually add these ingredients to the egg and sugar mixture, beating well after each addition. Pour the mixture into the bowl containing the carrots and raisins and incorporate using a wooden spoon or spatula until they are evenly blended.
6. Carefully spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases, filling them to about two-thirds full. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes - the cupcakes will be quite dark brown in the colour and feel 'spongy' to the touch. Remove from the oven and leave the cakes in their tins for about 10 minutes before carefully placing on a wire rack to cool.
7. These cupcakes can look a bit smaller than other recipes and are a much moisture sponge. They can be iced with orange cream cheese icing and finish off with a sprinkling of cinnamon.

The Verdict:
Well, I took these to work and they were awarded the silver medal which I don't thinks too shabby!

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18 August 2012

Lip Dub - adidas Team GB 'Don't Stop Me Now'

For those of you who know me well, know that we're little obsessed with Lip Dub at work, so when adidas teamed up with some of our Olympic Medallists to produce Queen's 'Don't Me Stop Me Now' I was going to be hooked from the first second.

Its a great tribute to our fantastic A Team Olympians featuring: Jessica Ennis, Victoria Pendleton, Chris Hoy, Louis Smith, The Brownlee Brothers & acting as film director the gorgeous golden balls himself David Beckham!

Check it out and let me know what you think...

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28 July 2012

Pimm's Jelly

I discovered this recipe the other day and got a big thumbs up. Be rude not to share!

Serves 4

  • Hartley's 135g strawberry or raspberry jelly
  • Pimm's No 1
  • Lemonade
  • 12 raspberries
  • 4 strawberries
  • Cucumber
  • Mint

1. Place the jelly cubes in a jug & add 100ml lemonade and place in microwave for 1 minute.
2. Stir well until dissolved.
3. Add 2-3 shot glasses of Pimm's, depending on how strong you fancy it.
4. Fill the jug up to 1 pint with lemonade and stir.
5. Pour into 4 glasses - I use plastic cups so I could take them on a picnic.
6. Add 3 raspberries per cup.
7. Slice your strawberries and add to each cup.
8. Add a few chunks of cucumber and a sprig of mint.
9. Pop in the fridge to set for a few hours.
10. Hey presto you've got Pimm's jelly - best served with sunshine!

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09 June 2012

Lotta love for Liz Earle

It’s not often in this day and age that you experience good customer service, but when you do, you feel like shouting about it & sharing that experience.

So - I’ve been using Liz Earle skincare products for a few years after a recommendation by a friend. I usually try and shop around to find the best price on QVC or eBay rather than going to the website direct as it is on the expensive side. However, the May special was an offer I just couldn’t refuse.

For £41 you got: 100ml cleansing pump usually £12.75, skin tonic usually £12.50, skin repair moisturiser usually £18.75 and eyebright usually £10.25 so a saving of over £13.. Plus thrown in with a letter thanking me for my custom was a complimentary 50ml exfoliator to try worth £9.50 and a sample face mask as well.

Liz Earle - order on the left, goodies on the right

So, Liz Earle you get my support and a massive 10/10 for effort. Now wouldn’t it be nice if all companies did that, wouldn’t it be great if a fashion company just threw in a pair of shoes to thank you for your custom... hmmm ..

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12 May 2012

Harvey and Rabbit

A few weeks ago at work we had presentation by creative agency Libertine London about branding.  What stuck with me was how adverts can play on either the emotional or rational side of our brain. And when I saw this new advert from Thinkbox 'Harvey and Rabbit' lots of emotions sprang to mind....have a watch...

Harvey the dog is used to convey emotional story-telling to change his owner's behaviour and persuade him not to throw away his best friend and constant companion, a stuffed toy called Rabbit.  So what emotions spring to mind?  Well, for me it transported me back to when I was young and had a Miss Piggy toy and got very upset when it was lost, so much so my parents had to buy me a replacement. I can also relate to the cute dog Harvey as our Jack Russell Gilly has those big brown eyes that will make you do anything.  Random!

And what are they selling?  Nothing really, Thinkbox is a group which helps ensure good TV advertising amongst the big channels, so really its all about the art of good story telling and playing on peoples emotions.  Long live great TV ads!

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29 April 2012

Flirt Cafe Bar - Bournemouth

Last weekend I discovered Flirt Cafe Bar on The Triangle in Bournemouth.

It was a refreshing find to discover a cosmopolitan cafe in Dorset - hurrah, they do exist!

A chilled out atmosphere with a mix of folk from students, friends, families, gay couples to elderly couples and romantic couples. A real anything goes type of atmosphere. Backed up with a tantalising menu to suit all appetites, I went for hot choc with marshmallows and a choccie brownie which scored full brownie points. 

Flirt is open from 9am until 11pm everyday, which made me want to be a student in Bournemouth just to lounge around in the colourful Flirt Cafe on the comfy sofas / random reclining aeroplane sofas and connect up to the free wifi and just hang out with all the cool people.

To find out more follow Flirt on Twitter @FlirtCafeBar or Like 'Flirt Cafe Bar' on Facebook for all the latest news and events.

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27 April 2012

Lip Dub by New Look PR

Lip dub/sync is really big at the moment and there's been a craze of celebs from Katy Perry, Justin Bieber to Selena Gomez plus the Radio 1 crew covering the current number one single Call Me Maybe? by Canadian Carly Rae Jepsen.

Well my fave to come out this week is by the New Look PR Team.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

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06 March 2012

Party in La Plagne

I’ve just got back from an amazing week away in La Plagne with 19 other ‘up for it’ ski friends staying at Skiworld’s Altesse Chalet in La Plagne 1800. So much so, I thought I’d share my top ten reasons for visiting La Plagne and a share a few things to avoid.

Snow family 2012

1. Lunch at La Loop bar. We stumbled across La Loop bar about 150m from our chalet which proved a fine mountain restaurant for our first lunch in resort. With a friendly laid back atmosphere we ended up making La Loop one of our regular après bars for vin chaud and Desparado.

2. Snowcard. Don’t fancy expensive mountain restaurants? Pick up a snowcard at the beginning of your holiday for 5€ and enjoy up to 40% off at 13 mountain restaurants across La Plagne and Les Arcs where you can choose from a wide selection including (on most menus) tartiflette, spag bol, soup, pizza and chips plus drink for approx 12€ in most places. Some places even through in a hot drink. We enjoyed some leisurely lunches at: Roche de Mio, Grande Rochette and La Roche in La Plagne and Arpette over in Les Arcs.

Lunch at La Roche

3. Bar crawl. For 10€ bar crawl with Skiworld starts off in Les Plagne 1800 at the Bobsleigh bar with downing a toffee vodka shot off a ski, followed by Spittin’ Feathers in Bellecotte, Igloo bar, Scotty’s and Mouth in Plagne Centre (although by that stage they could of been on any level!). Word of warning... if you’re planning on partying into the early hours make sure you wear good shoes for the trek home, otherwise if like me you’ll be sliding home down the slope on your sweet derrière!

Ski shots anyone?

4. Need some R&R? Head up to Plagne Centre where for 25€ in the mini shopping centre you can have a Jacuzzi, sauna and hammam.

5. Chalet host night off. Fancy French cuisine, then book a table at Aime 2000 L’Arlequin for a traditional French evening run by a lovely couple. Take your pick from raclette, cheese / meat fondue, hot plate and tartiflette.

Dinner at L'Arlequin

6. La Mine Bar. If you like live music and an upbeat atmosphere. Head to La Mine bar in La Plagne 1800, reminiscent of a cave, but don’t let looks put you off as this is a friendly French bar who on our fancy dress evening the band let our friend play drums to Prince’s Kiss.

7. Ski Lessons. We choose Oxygene for a 2 and a half hour afternoon ski lesson polishing our parallel turns, carving and mogul skills for approx 40€ each in a group of 3. Julien the instructor was your typical French ski instructor: tanned, good looking and an amazing skier – oh and his English wasn’t too bad either!

Post ski lesson apres drinks!

8. Champagny En Vanoise.  Not only are the views of Courcheval spectacular from the top of the Roche de Mio on the Champagny side, the snow is awesome and there is an amazing restaurant before you reach the Carella lift and perfect for sunbathing.

And who said deck chairs were just for the beach...

9. Plagne Montablert to the far right of the Paradiski is a low down resort at 1350m has the perfect cruising blue runs to blow away the cob webs in the morning and some fabulous loos in resort as well!

Sunny Plagne Montalbert

10. Just add a good bunch of friends who are all up for a laugh on and off piste which makes the perfect recipe for a great snow holiday!

Where's Wally?

And what to avoid in La Plagne?

1. Last bus home at 12.30.  Unless you fancy walking or in my case shuffling down the slope on your bum.

2. Free flowing shots from the Mouth nightclub. I thought being put to bed my by best friend on a Skiworld bar crawl in Meribel back in 2004 was bad, but too much shots and losing the ability to stand up on snow meant I was a little bit poorly sick… :)

3. Oxygene night sledging.  Just avoid full stop.

4. Slalom down the Sardane on kids day.  Unless you fancy a telling off by a French ESF instructor.

5. Route des bauches down to the Vanoise Express.  Unless you like roads!

Here’s to 2012 and bring on 2013! xxx

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07 February 2012

Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup

It might be chilly outside, but there’s nothing quite like homemade soup to make you feel cosy and warm on the inside. Plus, it’s not only healthy to make your own soup from scratch but will save you some pennies for lunch rather than popping out to the nearest branded coffee shop!

Here’s a straight forward recipe I found in the Sunday Express which I thought was deffo worth sharing.


*10 ripe tomatoes (go for large)

*1 red pepper

*Olive oil

*Salt and freshly group black pepper

*2 onions, peeled and chopped

*1 tbsp sugar

*500ml water

*4 tbsp cream

*3 garlic cloves, chopped (I actually left the garlic out, as I’m not the hugest garlic fan!)


Serves 6: although mine only managed to serve 4, hence why I recommend using large toms!
Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes

1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
2. Cut the tomatoes in half and place them cut-side up on a lined baking sheet (I used tin foil).
3. Cut the red pepper in half, remove seeds, cut each half into three pieces and add to the tomatoes.
4. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
5. Roast the tomatoes and red pepper for 45 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, fry the onions in a little olive oil in a large pot.
7. Remove the tomatoes and red pepper from the oven, add to the onions and stir well.
8. Add the sugar, water and garlic and simmer for about 20 minutes.

9. Place the soup in a blender or food processor, blend it and then strain it through a sieve into a bowl to remove all the pips and skins. (This actually took me a few attempts as the soup was pretty thick to start with!) .
10. Return it to the pot and add 4 tbsp of cream (I used single).
11. Heat through and serve with bread.


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