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Sunday Catch-up #36

Hello! I took a few days off blogging this week. It was Ian’s birthday so we have been seeing family and friends in the evenings plus work has been manic so I needed my time at home to be spent just relaxing and not thinking about school!

We’ve had a fab weekend. We decided very last minute (i.e. late Friday night) to spend Saturday at Go Ape. Ian had wanted to go for his birthday but we didn’t fancy doing it unless the weather was good and upon seeing it was sunny this weekend, we jumped in the car with my brother and his girlfriend and headed up to the Forest of Dean. We had so much fun and I’m really glad we went. I was terrified in places but had such a sense of achievement when I finished the course, although I’m aching a bit today!

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This week I have been…

Making: my guests feel welcome with clean sheets and Battenberg cake!

Going: to the Forest of Dean (it’s a beaut)

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Wearing: head to toe Nike

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Eating: a lovely birthday meal at The Longs Arms

Drinking: apple juice

Reading: I’ve just finished a book and am starting a new one tonight

Watching: Veep

Buying: birthday presents for Ian

Planning: my wardrobe for the week ahead (I’m off to Dorset for three days with school)

Cooking: on our new BBQ

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Baking: I’ve got all the ingredients for a new flapjack recipe to make tonight

Writing: blog post ideas down

Favouriting: James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke…hilarious!

Working on: staying organised

Trying to decide: what length I want my hair

Wishing: I could have bagels and tea in bed every morning

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Enjoying: Go Ape – such a fun day out!

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Needing: to paint my nails

Feeling: gross after a bird pooed in my hair…although it’s meant to lucky eh?!

Giggling at: nearly doing the splits on the high ropes!

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Recipe – Coca Cola Chicken

After indulging in chicken wings on an almost daily basis whilst in America, I was craving chicken again so had a play around with this recipe. I call it Coca Cola chicken but it is akin to a very mild, sweet barbecue sauce and one that makes the meat almost fall off the bones. You can make this with drumsticks, wings or even thighs.

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Ingredients

A glug of olive oil

9 chicken drumsticks

One can of Coke (I used Diet Coke)

One tin of chopped tomatoes

One teaspoon of wholegrain mustard

Salt and pepper

Some fresh coriander

How to make it

  • In a large pan, add the oil and chicken and brown for a few minutes on each side on a medium heat
  • Pour over your can of Coke, bring to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes
  • Now add the chopped tomatoes and mustard, season well and stir
  • Lower the heat slightly and allow to simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring regularly, until the sauce has reduced and thickened

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  • Remove the chicken legs and scoop up the rest of the sauce
  • Serve warm with some fresh coriander and my Spiced Roasted Chickpeas

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Love Food Festival, Dyrham Park

I love food festivals…lots of free tasters, people who are passionate about good food and we always come away with a bagful of tasty ingredients.

Love Food Festival is a local food festival held at various venues around Bath and Bristol and always has a great selection of stalls. Although we don’t have children, these are really family-friendly events and there is lots of emphasis on learning where your food is from.

As the sun was shining again today, we jumped in the car and headed over to Dyrham Park with the aim of buying some things we could BBQ this afternoon.

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There were loads of great options for lunch…

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A smoothie stall where you hopped on a bike and pedalled to blend your own drink!

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Herbs-a-plenty

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Cakes

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Jams and chutneys

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And luckily for us, some amazing meat!

We came away with a pretty good haul of Toulouse sausages, some jam, shortbread, quiche and two types of ribs.

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I have to give one company a special mention. Rib Street, based in Bristol, offer beef and pork ribs in amazing BBQ sauces then slow cook them and vacuum pack them ready to sell meaning you get all that amazing tenderness and flavour from slow-cooking with only about 10 minutes cooking time on the BBQ!

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Ian managed to do a deal with the stall holder and we came away with two large packs of pork and beef ribs for about £15.

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This afternoon, we fired up the BBQ for its first outing of the year and enjoyed a lovely long lunch in the sun.  We cooked the sausages and ribs we bought and had them with a couple of salads and fruity beers.

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I knew I would enjoy the pork ribs but we both fell in love with the beef ones! They were so juicy and tender and just fell off the bone once on our plates. I imagine making a pulled beef sandwich with one of these ribs with coleslaw would be amazing!

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After a gorgeous weekend, spent mostly outside in the garden, it is back to reality now as we get ready for another week at work. Lucky for me, this is my last week at work until half term so I’m hoping it flies by! x

Recipe – Spicy Red Cabbage

I have had one of the best weekends in a long time, full of food, friends and laughter!

Our friends arrived on Friday night carrying Krispy Kreme doughnuts and flowers (the best houseguests!) and I cooked us a huge toad in the hole, complete with extra sausages, potatoes, asparagus and my delicious red cabbage…recipe below…followed by huge slices of chocolate brownie!

After a lazy Saturday morning of croissants and tortilla, Ian and I decided to show our guests a few of our local hotspots in Bradford on Avon. We started off with a wander around the Tithe Barn then the boys went to the pub and us girls hit the independent shops. Sometimes, it is only when you are playing ‘tour guide’ that you remember and appreciate the cool places that you live near!

After a long lunch back home, we braved the afternoon chill for a walk around the village and a quick half at the local pub before heading into Bath for dinner at The Bath Brew House.

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I love this place and couldn’t resist ordering the BBQ ribs again and yes, they were just as amazing as I remembered! I even found room for a huge slab of Dr Pepper chocolate cake afterwards.

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Whilst there, we also booked tickets for a special ‘pork and beer night’ later this week so expect another review of this restaurant soon!

Today’s recipe is only a side dish but it is one I have made several times recently and is a real winner! At first, I thought it was a bit too Christmassy but this side dish is lovely to have at any time of the year. Not only does it add a lovely deep purple colour to your plate, it tastes delicious and seems to make loads too!

Ingredients

Butter

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 cinnamon stick

A quarter of a teaspoon of ground cinnamon

A quarter of a teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg

A quarter of a teaspoon of allspice/ sweet mixed spice

1 red cabbage, cored and sliced

1 apple, finely chopped

3 tablespoons of dark brown sugar

100-150ml of balsamic vinegar

50ml of red wine

2 tablespoons of jam or cranberry sauce (I used sour cherry jam)

How to make it

  • Melt a tablespoon of butter in a deep saucepan and add the chopped onion to soften for a few minutes on a low heat
  • Add the cinnamon stick, ground cinnamon, nutmeg and mixed spice and mix wellcab3
  • Add the red cabbage and sauté for a few minutes with another knob of butter thrown incab4
  • Add the apple, sugar, balsamic vinegar and winecab5
  • Cover and continue to cook on a low heat for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally
  • Stir through the jam and cook for another 15 minutescab9
  • Season well and serve warm, with another knob of butter on top

Finally, I had to post this weird picture I noticed when cutting my red cabbage…can you see the lobster?!cab7

Restaurant Review – The GPT Smokehouse, Bath

This week, I requested ‘somewhere that does good ribs’ for our date night! I was really impressed with the ribs we had when we ate at Bath Brew House but when I heard another smokehouse had opened, I knew it would only be a matter of time before we tried it out.

This restaurant is the new venture from the guys that owned Banglo, the restaurant next door that unfortunately was forced to close after a terrible fire. I have fond memories of long lunches in Banglo and the food was great so I had high hopes for the GPT Smokehouse, in what used to be the GPT Tavern.

Previously, it was a fairly nondescript pub and it has had a good facelift – lots of colour, exposed brick and cool furniture and art work.

It may have been because it was a rainy Thursday night, but there really wasn’t much atmosphere when we first walked in. Throughout the evening I realised that there is a bit of an identity crisis going on here. Some people were stood at the rather cramped bar area using it as a pub and then there were others who were there to eat but there is a lack of tables and some are in really bright areas of the room meaning it didn’t have that cosy, dining atmosphere you want from a restaurant.

Seeing as we are sticking strong with Dry January (so excited about my first beer next weekend though!) we started with some non-alcoholic drinks and perused the menu. I have to say that first impressions aside, the menu looked really good – lots of meat prepared using the onsite smoker with a definite nod to the American BBQ trend.

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For starters, I had some sweetcorn and jalapeno fritters and Ian opted for the chicken wings.

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My fritters were really good – just enough spice and served with a cooling smoked paprika dip and iceberg lettuce.

Ian’s chicken wings were amazing – huge and marinated in a spicy, flavoursome sauce and served with homemade slaw…and a water bowl for cleaning those greasy mitts afterwards!

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For our mains, I couldn’t resist trying their ribs although I did show some restraint and went for half a rack! These were served with a mug of skinny fries and some great coleslaw. Although the BBQ sauce was delicious, I was slightly disappointed with the ribs. For a start, they were quite dry rather than the juicy, falling-off-the-bone consistency I love. Secondly, the cut didn’t have that much meat on it – I like the rack of ribs plus a big chunk of meat on top so I felt a bit short-changed with these ones.

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Ian ordered the ‘Dirty Burger’ and it was jam-packed with good stuff! A rare beef burger topped with smoky bacon, melted cheese and a generous helping of pulled pork – naughty but a delicious treat. This was really filling but I had a bite and really enjoyed the combination of flavours.

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For pudding, we decided to share the Oreo chocolate brownie although I wasn’t too impressed with the 25 minute wait for it. I wish I could say the dessert was worth the wait but it really wasn’t anything special. The brownie was quite dry and I wouldn’t have known it contained Oreos at all.

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Overall, a mixed review for this place. I don’t think the new owners have really worked out whether they are a bar or restaurant and currently I don’t think they are getting either one quite right. The food and drink are priced like a restaurant but it has the atmosphere and layout of a pub.

The food however is really good and I think if it became more of a restaurant or at least had a dedicated dining room/ area I would definitely go back for more.

Restaurant Review – Bath Brew House

Last week, Ian and I went on a date to the new Bath Brew House. It has been open for a few months now but as soon as Ian heard there was an onsite brewery, he was very eager to go and try it out! brew4 This place used to be ‘The Metropolitan’, a fairly nondescript pub on the outskirts of town, but it has had a rather trendy new facelift and it was packed when we went on Thursday. As well as having its own brewery, this place also boasts a smoker and rotisserie which appealed to me. brew11 We started off with a few pints of ‘Emperor’, a light, hoppy pale ale with fruity notes – very crisp and refreshing.

We were seated at the far end of the dining area which I think was a bit of an error as we were there for over 20 minutes with the menu before I finally had to go and ask a waitress to come and take our order. Although we were less than impressed by the service at first, the waitresses really tried to make up for it afterwards and were really attentive and friendly once they knew we were there!

I really like the contemporary interior which has gorgeous wooden floors with a mixture of industrial and traditional touches dotted throughout. brew13 I think the menu is different compared to other places in Bath and with a huge selection of restaurants on offer, I like that this pub has carved itself a bit of a niche locally. The menu isn’t huge but is quite American in its content.

Ian and I started off with some starters to share; the ‘Scotch Bacon and Egg’ and the ‘Bingo Wings’. The Scotch egg used minced bacon to surround the egg and this gave a lovely, flavour although I don’t think the texture was quite as good as sausagemeat. brew15 The chicken wings were deep fried and had a lovely spicy kick. These were just like some we had in Vegas and very tasty. brew14 For our mains, we went all out and if I’m honest it was a bit of a meat feast! I had the ribs which were amazing, full of smoky flavour and there was so much tender meat. It came in a sweet and sticky BBQ sauce, which complemented the smokiness of the meat perfectly, and a generous helping of fries and coleslaw. Ribs are probably my favourite dish to order and these were pretty damn good. brew7 Ian had a whole (!) spicy chicken from their rotisserie, although had to admit defeat and take some home in a doggie bag! This was perfectly cooked and they left the skin on for a naughty but nice treat. His meal came served with a mug of chips and some salad and was also very tasty. brew8 The pudding menu looked tempting but after such huge main courses, we couldn’t manage a dessert but I did find room for a white hot chocolate which was served with the classic biscuit accompaniment…a party ring! I really enjoyed this hot chocolate – it was creamy and indulgent and only slightly sickly. brew10 I also couldn’t resist doing this with the foam: brew1 The final touch (which I also loved) was how they gave us our bill. It came in an old book with a little bag of old-school pick ‘n’ mix sweets! brew3 brew2 Despite the slightly poor service at the start of the night, Ian and I both loved this place. The menu was spot on for good pub food and the addition of lovely surroundings and great beer only adds to the experience.

We will definitely be popping back here very soon and I recommend this place if you are looking for somewhere new to eat in Bath.

Sunny Days

Hello!

It’s been a few days since I have managed to sit down and blog but things have been incredibly busy at work trying to finish everything off for the year. However, all the big stuff was handed in on Friday so I finally feel like I can relax a bit and start looking forward to America!

This weekend was a pretty darn good one. It obviously helped that we had some gorgeous weather but I also managed to pack in a good dose of friends and family.

On Friday night, after sitting through two horrendous traffic jams, I made it to Birmingham for a night with my bestie Lucie. She is a great hostess and always seems to know the cool places in the city to take me to! This time, it was a little food truck festival in Digbeth which was full of super-trendy people but it was the food that I was interested in!

The Street Food revolution is huge and I am looking forward to sampling a couple in San Francisco soon. There were four different food trucks on offer and I was so hungry I was seriously considering getting one thing from each one!

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I went for the ‘Low ‘N’ Slow’ truck which specialised in slow-cooked American BBQ food. Unfortunately the pulled pork and beans had sold out but I had the most amazing burger filled with beef chili brisket, topped with homemade coleslaw and BBQ sauce…perfect with a cold beer!

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For ‘pudding’ I went to the Jabberwocky van (coolest name ever!) for a posh toastie and shared a banoffee one with Lucie. It was delicious.

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We finished the night with endless cups of tea, talking into the early hours, which was the perfect end to a stressful week. I also received the most incredible early birthday present…

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The next day, I headed over to my friend Paul’s house for our annual BBQ with my old university coursemates. It made us feel incredible old to realise we had met almost 10 years ago now (!) but I am so glad we all make the effort each summer to come from different parts of the country to meet up and eat!

There was an endless supply of good food and my diet went out of the window with the 4 puddings I had…oooops!

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I came home last night and Ian and I made it up the pub for last orders so we could have a beer and a good catch up.

Today, after a lie-in we fired up our BBQ for the first time this year and Ian’s parents and dog George popped in for lunch. I tried out a new pork rub (recipe coming soon!) and we thoroughly enjoyed the sunshine.

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brum21Despite falling asleep for a rather large chunk of it (I blame the heat!), this afternoon was all about Murray and I was quite moved when he finally did it!

All in all, a great weekend and now that things at work have calmed down a bit I am in holiday-planning mode and may share a few plans on here over the next few weeks.

I hope you made the most of the sunshine this weekend…it probably won’t be here for much longer! x

Restaurant Review – The Dandy Lion, Bradford on Avon

It may have been all of the Facebook and Twitter updates mentioning BBQs, but over the Bank Holiday weekend I had a serious craving for a burger. Not a cheap takeaway one but a proper Man Vs Food-style beast of a burger so we headed out for dinner. We were going to try the new menu at our local pub but due to wanting to soak up every bit of sunshine, we ended up missing service so drove into our nearby town of Bradford on Avon.

The Dandy Lion is a lovely pub and we have often been for a drink or two, but this was the first time eating here. As soon as I saw the burger option available on the menu, I knew what I would be ordering and Ian followed suit!

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Service was quick and friendly and soon these little wooden trays arrived…

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A gorgeous sourdough bun which was crunchy yet chewy was the perfect way to serve these. The burgers were moist and flavoursome, topped with smoked crispy bacon, melted Emmental cheese and their secret burger sauce…delicious!

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On the side was a well-dressed side salad, creamy coleslaw and then a little bucket of chips – I opted for skinny fries while Ian indulged in some triple-cooked chips.

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 Although a burger and chips seems like quite a simple meal to get right, there are certain elements you can get very wrong, from the bun to the toppings to the sides and The Dandy Lion seemed to tick all the boxes for me!

 A great late-night dinner and we will definitely return for another meal there soon.

Back to Work and a couple of Quick and Easy Recipes

Hello!

This is a bit of a catch-up post today as I have started back at work again so am currently struggling to find the time to write on here every day while I get back into the swing of things.

I had a look back at a few of my blog posts from this time last year when I was just starting at my school and it has made me realise how different I feel this time around. I think part of it was a slight fear of the unknown but I am definitely much happier going back to work this September. I feel rested after a lovely summer off and my new class seem absolutely gorgeous! This may be the calm before the storm but so far, so good!

It has however been a bit of a shock to the system having to get up early again, be on my feet all day and make what feels like a thousand important decisions a day again. I finished work on Friday feeling quite worn out so made sure we had a lovely chilled-out weekend.

This didn’t quite go to plan when we headed up to the local pub for a few Thank-God-it’s-Friday drinks and soon realised that, in our haste to get there and start on the beers, neither of us had a key with us! Cue some tall ladders and Ian scrambling through an upstairs window!

Our house is a bit chaotic at the moment as we are having a new bathroom fitted next week. Here is our hallway at the moment:

Just out of shot is the new bath tub which is positioned so close to the front door that you have to kind of shuffle into the house through a half-open doorway! One of the spare bedrooms upstairs is filled with tiles and grout and the bathroom itself looks like a building site with bare plaster on the walls and half the floor missing…watch this space for the finished results!

My Dad is staying with us this week to help with the decorating and tiling which means we get a week of delicious home-cooked meals! On Friday it was steak:

Last night was a BBQ:

And tonight we have a poussin each currently roasting in the oven!

I am absolutely loving this weather at the moment, and it has made the early mornings that little bit more bearable; lovely refreshing mornings and sunny afternoons.

We spent all day yesterday in the garden, tidying it up  and cutting back all the weeds that seem to have flourished over the wet summer we have had. I am ashamed to say that I actually found a stinging nettle that was taller than me, which made me feel like we really had neglected our garden!

In between working in the sun, we had lots of drink and snack breaks and I whipped up a batch of iced coffees which turned out to be a lovely and refreshing drink with that added caffeine hit to keep you going!

There are pages and pages of literature online dedicated to making the perfect iced coffee drink involving cold brewing, leaving the liquid overnight stewing and all manner of other tips. I however just wanted something quick and easy so I simply brewed a couple of shot of espresso (by the way, a major pet hate of mine is people using the word expresso!) from our coffee machine, added some sugar and then milk until it was the colour of a latte.

As it was the weekend I also poured in a shot of amaretto liquor (!) but you can leave it as ordinary coffee or add another flavoured syrup.

I then popped this lukewarm concoction in the freezer for an hour or so  until it was nice and chilled. You can pop a couple of ice cubes into the coffee at this stage to speed up the chilling but be careful not to put too many in or it will dilute the coffee too much.

Serve with lots of ice. I was really excited to use my new vintage milk bottles to serve these in and they looked lovely in their white tray:

For me, there was only one possible option for dinner last night to make the most of this sunshine…BBQ!

I wanted to share my new favourite canapé that was served at the wedding I went to last weekend and I have now nicked and will totally claim as my own at future dinner parties! On a cocktail stick, simply pop on a slice of chorizo, a cube of hard goats cheese and a piece of sundried tomato…easy yet absolutely gorgeous!

My Dad made some substantial burgers to go on the grill, with a surprise filling of blue cheese which had melted and made for the most gooey, delicious and flavoured burgers.

Having cleared lots of wood, weeds and other junk out of the garden yesterday we had a huge bonfire to keep us warm as the night drew in and the temperature dropped…

…although the flames did get a bit wild at one point !

I am hoping this lovely weather continues for a bit longer as the seasons slowly shift. I found these gorgeous colourful leaves yesterday and already my mind has started to wander to Autumn and crunchy leaves, bonfire night, comfort food, scarves and mulled cider!

Recipe: Banana and Honey Smoothie Lollies

It actually felt like August for a little bit this weekend…sun!

With the dreadful weather we have had this year, it is fast becoming habit that when we have the smallest slither of sunshine we make the most of it, sitting outside at home, in beer gardens and at the park.

We headed over to Bristol for a barbecue on Saturday and both the food and weather were glorious!

We had planned on seeing the Night Glow at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta but my foot was still sore so Ian and I headed home early to watch Mo and Tom get their medals.

It feels strange knowing the Olympics are all over now. I have loved watching them and have been in tears more than once, so proud of how well the British athletes have done. It has been so refreshing to have the likes of Jessica Ennis and Tom Daley celebrated rather than the usual reality TV celebrities and I for one will keep pushing these images to my class when school starts again in September.

On Sunday, Ian and I headed into our closest town, the beautiful Bradford-On-Avon, for a bit of a wander. We saw a postbox being painted gold as we passed to celebrate the gold medal won by Ed McKeever in the kayaking, something that will make me smile every time I drive past it on the way to work. We actually ran into his Dad in Sainsbury’s car park, buying a huge stack of copies of the local paper, a proud smile on his face.

I took Ian to a new place I had discovered last week which has a 14th Century tithe barn, lots of lovely little shops and galleries, cafes and several walks along the river…perfect for a Sunday morning stroll.

My recipe today is another one where I feel a bit cheeky calling it a recipe as it is so easy to do. I bought this ice lolly holder for about a pound and tried out the first of what will hopefully be many combinations this summer.

There are only 3 ingredients; banana, honey and a dash of milk. As you can see I was looking for an excuse to use up these couple of bananas that were past their best and, having had quite an indulgent weekend, couldn’t justify a banana loaf!

Simply pop the banana chunks into a blender, add a dash of milk and a good squeeze of honey.

Puree the contents and have a taste to make sure you have added enough honey.

Pour the banana mixture into your lolly moulds, add the sticks and pop them in the freezer to set.

My only tip is to fill the moulds right up to the top as this makes it easier to pull out.

These are great to have in the freezer for pudding or to cool you down when we do have the odd sunny day and I will share with you any other combinations that work well.

Finally, for anyone else who loves TV cooking shows as much as I do, this programme starts again tomorrow and may go some way to filling the Olympic sized hole in your evenings.

I LOVE this show…Mel and Sue, the cooking cock-ups, the venues and the legends that are Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood.

So you can imagine my utter delight when I received this handwritten card from Queen Berry herself, complimenting me on my crumble! A friend was working on the show and told Mary how much I love her and how that weekend I had served a crumble (the recipe is on the blog!) wondering if Mary would approve of it and I got this note in return!