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Restaurant Review – The Milk Churn

A couple of weekends ago, we fancied trying a new place for lunch so I booked us a table at this Hall and Woodhouse pub. Part of the Badger Brewery chain, Ian loves their ales and, although their menu isn’t exactly fine dining, it offers really good pub grub.

I can’t say the pub itself is in the nicest setting but The Milk Churn is housed in a gorgeous building which has a converted barn feel to it.

We started off with a couple of their ales – I love ‘Golden Glory’ which is a light ale with a peach flavour and reminds me of summer holidays camping in Dorset!

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For my lunch, I ordered a Buffalo Chicken Burger which was coated in Frank’s hot wing sauce and served with a blue cheese mayo. This reminded me so much of the chicken wings we enjoyed in America and although the bun fell apart a bit, the chips were really good!

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Ian opted for a Fish Dog which is basically a hot dog with beer-battered cod goujons in place of a sausage, with mushy peas and tartare sauce. It may sound a bit strange but it really worked and reminded me of a slightly fancier fish-finger sandwich (one of my favourite comfort-food lunches!)

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We also shared some hot wings which were a little on the small and dry side for me.

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I always save some room for a pudding and The Milk Churn offer ‘mini puds’ which I think is a great idea if you are torn between two desserts! I ordered a mini toffee cheesecake and a mini chocolate pot.

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The cheesecake was OK but the ratio between the toffee sauce, biscuit and cream were a little off. My favourite by far was the chocolate pot which had a rich dark chocolate mousse topped with vanilla panna cotta. This was a perfect combination and I could have eaten two or three of them!

We had a lovely lunch here at The Milk Churn. I probably wouldn’t come back here for an evening meal as it has a bit of a ‘chain’ feel to it and I much prefer a local, country pub but it was a great lunch venue and we are big fans of the ales served here.

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Restaurant Review – Taplow House Hotel

It feels like I haven’t done a good restaurant review for ages! I think that’s probably because we keep eating at places I have already reviewed or just places that don’t lend themselves to a good blog post.

Anyway, today I wanted to share the amazing meal Ian and I enjoyed at Taplow House Hotel when we stayed there recently. We had a three course meal included in our hotel stay which I always like as it means you don’t have to have that argument about who will be the designated driver!

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We started with a good bottle of Merlot while we perused the menu. There were 4 or 5 options for starter, main and dessert which were a nice variety of meat, fish and veggie dishes. The dining room was beautifully decorated but I have to say there wasn’t much atmosphere…maybe that was simply because it was a Wednesday evening though.

I am going to get my other niggle out the way now because I really couldn’t find fault with the food. The night we ate at the Taplow House Hotel, there was a large party in the other room which meant the service in the restaurant suffered a bit. We actually had to wait for almost an hour for our starters which normally would really annoy me but because we were ‘on holiday’ I didn’t mind too much as we were enjoying our wine and conversation.

Onto our (much anticipated!) starters…

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I had a dish of lightly whipped goats cheese which came with salt baked and pickled beetroot, green apple, sesame seed sponge, blackberries and leaves. The pairing of goats cheese and beetroot is a favourite of mine and this was one of those perfectly balanced dishes with a lovely variety of flavours and textures.

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Ian had the grilled mackerel (which were smoked in-house) which came with avocado, celeriac remoulade, mouli, pickled mustard seeds and shiso cress. Again, this was a well-balanced dish with the rich fish matched well against the accompaniments.

I think you can usually judge how good a restaurant is after you’ve had the starters and I have to say we were both really impressed with what we had had so far.

For my main, I really fancied fish so ordered the fillet of cod. This was a huge portion (not complaining!) and it just flaked away perfectly. It was served with artichokes, cockles, mini turnips, squid ink gnocchi and a smoked herring roe butter sauce. Whilst it did look a bit messy on the plate, this dish was incredible! The rich sauce brought everything together and I thoroughly enjoyed every mouthful.

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Ian opted for the lamb which again looked a bit messy on the plate but more than delivered on taste. There was a braised neck of lamb fillet and loin as well as sweetbreads served with pearl barley, charred baby leeks, celeriac and a lovely rosemary gravy.

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Onto pudding now and I had the white chocolate cheesecake which turned out to be a delightful deconstructed version and one of my favourite dishes of the night. The filling part of the cheesecake part was one of the balls sat atop the biscuit crumbs, the other being a rich vanilla ice cream. Surrounding the rest of the plate was a combination of chocolate ganache, shards of milk chocolate, hazelnuts, cocoa nib sherbet and cocoa marshmallows. It was truly delicious and every mouthful was different.

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Ian doesn’t have as much of a sweet tooth as I do so opted for the cheeseboard which had a nice variety of local cheeses, crackers and a chutney.

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If this hotel was nearby, I would be back to this restaurant in a flash. Although the atmosphere and service left a bit to be desired, I absolutely loved the food here and that would be enough to tempt me back. x

Recipe – Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake Brownies

This title is a bit of a mouthful but the marbled combination of the cheesecake and the brownies make for one delicious dessert! These brownies are very rich but get even tastier and dense after two days in an airtight container…the perfect bit of baking to do on a rainy half-term afternoon.

Ingredients

150g of butter or margarine, at room temperature

200g of dark chocolate, roughly broken into squares

275g of caster sugar

5 eggs

75g of plain flour

300g of cream cheese

200g of thawed black cherries (raspberries or blueberries would work too)

How to make it

  • Begin by preheating the oven to 180°C, Gas Mark 4 and line your baking tin with greaseproof paper

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  • Add the butter and chocolate to a bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water and stir until melted before allowing the mixture to cool

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  • Once cooled, mix in 225g of the the caster sugar, then the three eggs (one at a time) then the flour
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the soft cheese with the remaining 50g of caster sugar and the last two eggs until smooth and creamy

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  • Now it’s time to start creating that marbled effect between the two mixtures. Spoon alternate drops of the brownie and cheesecake mixtures into the baking tin

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  • You can use the end of a spoon to add more swirls
  • Drop in the cherries evenly across the surface of the cake

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  • Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and firm

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  • Allow to cool then cut into generous chunky slices

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Recipe – Baked Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake

As usual, this half term has flown by. We are halfway through having new doors and windows fitted so I escaped to stay with my parents for a few days. My Mum also completed her 6th and final round of chemotherapy so despite her feeling awful, we celebrated getting through what has been a very tough couple of months.

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Today’s recipe is one I made a few weeks ago to take with us to Sunday lunch at our best friends’ house. I love a baked cheesecake and this one looked so good with the deep purple swirls of blueberry.

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I found a recipe online but it made double the amount of filling needed so I have adjusted the quantities slightly.

Ingredients

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300g of digestive biscuits, bashed up into crumbs

150g of melted butter

275g of golden caster sugar

A small tub of fresh blueberries (100-150g)

1 teaspoon of cornflour

2 packs of 300g full-fat Philadelphia

3 tablespoons of plain flour

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

2 large eggs

140m of sour cream

How to make it

  • Preheat your oven to 200°C, Gas Mark 6, and line your ovenproof cheesecake tray with baking paper
  • Add the melted butter to your biscuit crumbs and combine until it has the consistency of wet sandch3
  • Tip this mixture into your baking tray and press firmly down
  • Bake for 10 minutes and allow to coolch4
  • Tip 25g of the sugar into a small saucepan and add the blueberries
  • Mix the cornflour with a tablespoonful of cold water then add this to the pan tooch5
  • On a low heat, keep stirring the ingredients until the sugar has dissolved and the blueberries have started to break down to create a sauce. Allow to cool
  • In a mixing bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth
  • Add the remaining caster sugar and combine
  • Finally, add the plain flour, vanilla extract, eggs and sour cream and whisk togetherch7
  • Pour about half of this mixture onto the cooled biscuit base
  • Spoon half of the blueberry sauce on topch8
  • Cover with the remaining cheesecake mixture then top with the remaining blueberries and saucech9
  • Using the back of a teaspoon, create the swirlsch10
  • Bake in the oven for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to about 100°C, Gas Mark ½ and bake for a further 30 minutes
  • I then left the cheesecake in the oven overnight with the oven door slightly ajar before transferring to the fridge the next morning to ensure it had completely setch11

Recipe – Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

Like almost every British blogger will do today, I am going to start my post by mentioning the glorious weather we have enjoyed! The words ‘Bank Holiday’ and ‘sunshine’ don’t seem to go together very often so when we do get a sunny weekend, we definitely make the most of it!

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Ian and I decided to spend as much time as possible outside in the garden, giving it some much needed TLC so he mowed the grass whilst I removed as many weeds as possible…teamwork!

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I love drying our washing outside on the line

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The whitest legs in the South West

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As you probably know, I like to eat outside as often as possible and today we had our lunch on the picnic bench at the bottom of the garden, listening to the horses in the field behind us.

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We had fresh melon and Parma ham

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Freshly-cut French baguette and butter

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The ubiquitous savoury eggs (!)

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Fresh anchovies in a lovely vinaigrette

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All washed down with a bottle of shandy! These little bottles are one of my favourite summer drinks and I always keep a few in the fridge. Gone are the days where I can drink beer or cocktails all day long and not be asleep by 4pm so these lovely little drinks are a kind of halfway house!

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And for a pudding, I made these cheesecake stuffed strawberries. Now, I LOVE cheesecake. It is one of my favourite desserts and I am counting down the days until we can go to The Cheesecake Factory when we are in Las Vegas this summer. However, I am trying to eat as healthily as possible at the moment and so this recipe is a sort of deconstructed version of a strawberry cheesecake coming in at about 50 calories per strawberry.

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Ingredients

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A punnet of fresh strawberries

Half a tub of cream cheese (full fat works best, I found the low-fat version slightly too runny)

3 tablespoons of icing sugar

Half a teaspoon of vanilla extract

2 digestive biscuits, crumbled

How to make it

  • Begin by prepping the strawberries. Chop off the top and then use a sharp knife to cut out the white inner part of the fruit, leaving you with a hollowed-out strawberrystrawb22
  • It’s a tiny bit fiddly but once you have done a few, you really get the hang of itstrawb21
  • Next, make the filling by mixing together the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla extract until smooth and creamy
  • Then you can either fill the strawberries yourself ready to serve or have all the ingredients ready for your guests to put together themselves.strawb11
  • Spoon, or use a piping bag if you want full marks for presentation, the cream cheese mixture into the strawberries then sprinkle over the crushed biscuit to topstrawb12

As we were eating lots of finger food for lunch, I decided to leave the 3 elements to this pudding in separate bowls and put them together as we went…much more fun and hands-on if you are serving this with friends!

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Recipe – Oreo Cookies ‘N’ Cream Cheesecakes

Hello and Happy Friday!

Unfortunately, this seems to be turning into a bit of a weekly blog at the moment – not on purpose, of course, but my days are currently consisting of teaching, marking, home, cup of tea, painting, dinner then bed!

I have to really ‘feel it’ to sit down and write properly and more importantly I need to have actually done something, been somewhere new and exciting or cooked a delicious new dish to have something interesting to share!

I blame the weather…it has been rubbish lately and quite uninspiring. The other day, I was looking back over some of my posts from March, when the first signs of Spring started showing, and I was so happy and positive about things. I think I must have that seasonal disorder as when it is grey and gloomy all I want to do is sit in my pyjamas with Ian, a bottle of wine and a good film!

However, we have been busy and the living room is almost done. I spent ages wandering up and down the aisles of various DIY shops with colour charts in hand, trawling for the perfect paint colour and I think I have found it in the rather beautifully names ‘Lavender Grey’. It was one of those situations where I could picture the colour I wanted in my head but I wasn’t sure if it actually existed – luckily the hunt is over! And if you could have seen what it was like before then you would know how excited I am to be close to finishing room number one!

We have our new windowsills in, our new fireplace has arrived, the walls are almost done and we just need to apply the beautiful new paint, get some shelves up so we can finally finish unpacking and then voila!

Today’s recipe is one that I tasted at a friend’s house, loved (thanks Sandy!), and then adapted it to the recipe you see below.

They are so easy to make and absolutely delicious! The base is simply an Oreo cookie, which is then topped with a lovely simple cheesecake and baked to perfection.

Ingredients (to make 12)

1 pack of Oreo cookies

200g of cream cheese

50g of caster sugar

2 eggs

2 tablespoons of sour cream

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

How to make it

  • Preheat your oven to 180°C
  • Line a muffin tray with paper cake cases and then pop a whole Oreo cookie into each one
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, sugar, eggs, sour cream and vanilla extract until smooth
  • Crush the remaining cookies in the pack (I had about 4 left in mine after I had a sneaky one with a cup of tea as I was making these!) and then add these cookie crumbs to the cream cheese mixture
  • Next, fill the cupcake cases until almost full and then put them in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until they are a light brown

These little delights are lovely warm, with a bit of cream poured over the top.

Have a great weekend! xxx

A Weekend with the Girls

Hello!

In my last post, a few days ago, I promised my paella recipe was on its way and I have had a few messages wondering where it is. As quite often happens when you have house guests and a lovely doggie staying with you, other things cropped up and I ran out of time for my nightly writing session so apologies for the wait, but I promise it will be up on here soon, along with a very tasty cheesecake recipe!

This weekend saw a rather overdue catch up with one of my best friends who has just moved to London. Despite a part of me hoping she would change her mind and stay so I could see her weekly, I now have the perfect excuse for a girlie weekend away seeing the best of what the capital has to offer, which for me always includes food! Luckily, my friend, Cat, had already scoped out some excellent local eateries so I was not disappointed!

I headed up on the train and made my way across the city, through the crowds of Liverpool and Everton fans emerging from Wembley (nice win lads!), until I was in gorgeous West Hampstead and gasping for a cuppa. Without further ado, we visited the darling Bake-A-Boo café for some afternoon tea.

I love it when a friend chooses a place that you will enjoy and this was right up my street; fairy lights, lace doilies, bunting, paper lanterns, roses, mismatched china…perfection!

However, it wasn’t a case of style over substance and we also sampled two of their delicious cupcakes.

First up was the ‘Charlie’ chocolate cupcake; a cocoa-rich sponge topped with chocolate buttercream.

Next was my favourite; the ‘Bella’, which was a light, blueberry-filled sponge topped with a fresh passion fruit buttercream. This cupcake was actually gluten and dairy-free, although you couldn’t really tell, which I personally think means they have got it spot on!

My only niggle is that we arrived rather late in the day so the café had sold out of a lot of their stock but after looking at the wonderful selection on their website I can see why! If I lived nearby, I would frequent this place a lot with girlfriends and I am contemplating whether to treat myself to their cookbook to recreate some of the recipes at home…the Cosmo cupcake and elderflower tea bread are particularly tempting!

I didn’t walk away completely empty-handed though. Bake-A-Boo has a few shelves offering some very cute and vintage-style kitchen and baking accessories and I just couldn’t resist these very cute cupcake cases:

After a quick change and some red wine, we donned our heels and were off out for dinner at The Wet Fish Café, a lovely seafood restaurant.

We started with a delightful fishy sharing platter which included perfectly cooked sweet scallops, crispy calamari, a pile of smoked salmon and some crayfish dressed in a light lemony sauce. All elements were fresh, well-cooked and really got our taste buds going for what was to come.

My friend Cat opted for a piece of pollock with polenta chips, confit leeks and a tomato sauce which was a really well-balanced dish.

I enjoyed the crayfish in the starter so much I ordered the crayfish linguine, which was a twist on my favourite pasta dish, spaghetti vongole. It was a generous bowlful, with hints of chilli, lemon, garlic and parsley throughout and lovely big juicy chunks of crayfish.

We shared a simple pudding of rhubarb and apple crumble, served with cinnamon and raisin ice cream.

The restaurant had a lovely relaxed atmosphere and very friendly service and I would look forward to dining here again. All of the fish is from sustainable sources and was really delicious and cooked well…all in all a fabulous evening with great company!

I was up and out early the next day and over to North London for a bridesmaid dress fitting with another group of girlfriends. For obvious reasons, I cannot reveal too much about the outfits in question(!) but I can confirm we had enormous fun dressing up in the vintage-style that has been chosen and I got to wear a petticoat for the first time in my adult life!

After some shoe shopping and a long lunch, we headed back to the station and just had time to squeeze in a Krispy Kreme and a latte before it was time to catch our train back to the West Country after what was a very enjoyable and much-needed girls’ weekend.

Despite coming home to discover we had run out of oil and would have a rather chilly house for a few days (ahhhh the joys of living in the country!), it was lovely to be back home again and have a long soak to wash off the grime and dust of the city, as well as catch up with my boy!

I was back to work again today and, although it was painful to hear my alarm go off so early, it was great to be back and it made me realise how much I missed my class and colleagues…although ask me again how I feel about work in a few weeks when the dreaded SATs are looming!

(Not long until my paella recipe, I promise…and totally worth the wait! Ha!) xxx