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Recipe – Meatloaf

A dish which always makes me think of The Simpsons, meatloaf is a great midweek treat that is simple to make and tastes good! I kept my first attempt quite simple but you could easily mix up the flavours and textures by adding different vegetables, herbs or using different meat.

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This made a large meatloaf so Ian and I had this over two evenings, served with veggies and new potatoes and it can be enjoyed warm or cold for picnics too.

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Ingredients

A 500g tray of beef mince

1 onion, finely chopped

4-5 rashers of smoked bacon or pancetta, chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 egg

A squeeze of tomato puree

Salt and pepper

A bunch of fresh parsley, roughly chopped

6 tablespoons of grated Parmesan

50g of breadcrumbs

How to make it

  • Begin by preheating your oven to 190°C, Gas Mark 5 and line your loaf tin with greaseproof paper
  • Separate 2 tablespoons of both the Parmesan and breadcrumbs and set aside for later
  • In a large mixing bowl, add all the other ingredientsloaf10
  • The best way to combine this is by hand so roll your sleeves up, remove your rings and get stuck in!loaf11
  • Once combined, press the mixture into a loaf tinloaf12
  • Top with the remaining Parmesan and breadcrumbsloaf3
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes until the topping is golden brownloaf4
  • Lift out of the tin using the greaseproof paper and allow to cool slightly before slicing and servingloaf5
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Restaurant Review – The Milking Parlour, Bradford on Avon

We had a real treat for our date night this week. My lovely friends Hannah and Ben bought me a five-course tasting menu at this new restaurant and it was absolutely amazing!

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Located within the grounds of The Old Manor Hotel just outside Bradford on Avon, this beautiful farmhouse restaurant is welcoming and cosy inside and decorated with quirky wooden whisky signs and a good amount of exposed brick and wooden beams. I’m at that stage now where I kind of know when I walk in somewhere if I’ll really love it and this is definitely my kind of place.

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It was lovely to find out how local and seasonal the tasting menu was. The chef uses as much as possible from the kitchen garden and there is even a smokery, beehives and rare breed pigs on site!

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Anyway…onto the food!

After ordering a nice bottle of red, our first starter was brought out. The waitresses really know their stuff and talked us through each part of the menu as it was served.  To being with we had Chinese pulled pork belly topped with a fat, juicy scallop, some micro herbs and a pipette full of a shitake mushroom sauce. I know some may find the pipette a bit poncey but I thought it was a really fun way of serving this dish.

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Ian and I both loved this first course and it definitely set the standard very high for the rest of the meal. I love scallops and its sweetness went perfectly with the pork and sauce.

Next, we had a pickled beetroot and whipped goats cheese salad served with nuts and leaves. I love this classic combination but for me this dish really won on its textures. Rather than the usual crumbly goats cheese, this was light and whipped, almost like a cream, which tasty very indulgent. I also loved the crunch from the nuts – I plan on trying to recreate this salad at home.

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A fish course next with hay-smoked salmon (smoked on site) and a posh coleslaw-style remoulade made with apple and celeriac and an apple vinaigrette. Again, I loved this dish! The salmon was rich and smoky without the chemical taste you sometimes get with supermarket smoked fish.

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Our main course was beef cheeks which had been slow-cooked all day. I’m a fan of pig cheeks but hadn’t tried beef before. It’s another one of those cheap cuts that are terribly fashionable now and taste wonderful with a generous cooking time. The meat just fell apart and was served with a beefy sauce, crunchy green beans and a woody mushroom puree. Although I thought the portions throughout the evening were perfect for me, at this point Ian did say he was still not feeling very full so maybe some sort of potato would have gone well with this dish.

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Finally, my highlight of the meal – the pudding! We had ‘Monkey Bread’ for dessert, a kind of banana bread cake and proper bread hybrid. There was an almost crusty outer layer with a rich, chocolatey, gooey inside. It was served with a big scoop of clotted cream and a toffee popcorn caramel sauce – absolutely divine!

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Whilst the service was really friendly and informative throughout the evening, it did take ages for the waitress to sort our bill out. normally I wouldn’t mind this but we ate quite late and it was a school night so I was itching to get home into my pjs!

Overall, this was a really amazing dining experience. The location, dining room and food were all great and I love knowing you have found a real local gem too! Thank you to my very generous friends for such a great present xxx

 

Restaurant Review – Grillstock, Bath

Another restaurant review from the archives today as Ian and I actually went for dinner at Grillstock over the summer but it made a good impression on me and stuck in my mind.

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First of all I should warn you that there is an obscene amount of meat in this post – we actually ended up taking a few doggy bags home with us that provided lunch for the next two days!

Located in The Vaults in Bath, we had the option of squeezing in to an inside table (next to a screaming toddler!) or enjoying the sunshine and eating al fresco…no contest really!

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We had a couple of beers whilst we perused the menu (both ones we have tried in the States) and tried to narrow down our choices. I know the Deep South American BBQ-style cuisine is ridiculously trendy at the moment but my Dad has been making ribs, pulled pork and chicken wings in this style for years so I personally am overjoyed this food is having its moment in the spotlight.

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Unable to choose between ribs, burger and hot dogs, we went for the ‘Grand Champion’…pretty much a bit of everything from the menu on a sharing tray. It’s fair to say we were slightly overwhelmed when the tray arrived. Ian also picked this exact moment to get more drinks so I was sat alone at a table with this enormous portion of food looking like an absolute pig! Haha

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This feast contained pulled pork, beef brisket, ribs, BBQ chicken, a hot dog, link sausages, burnt bits, BBQ beans, brisket chili, cornbread, pickles, coleslaw and a mountain of chili fries…phew!

I set to work on the ribs (my favourite) whilst Ian polished off the hot dog (our favourites) then we tried a little bit of everything. My highlights were the ribs, chicken and the little pots of BBQ beans and chilli although I have to admit that after a while the flavours did slightly merge into one. The pulled pork was a little dry although we did get a selection of sauces on our table.

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This platter was £35 and considering how great they were about bagging up the leftovers for us, I think this was pretty good value for money. Suffice to say, we were stuffed when we left and you could definitely share this between 3, or maybe 4 if you aren’t as greedy as me! x

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Restaurant Review – The Stable, Bath

Well, wasn’t there some drama in the Bake Off last night?! My best friend Lu came over for a catch up so I made us veggie burgers and sweet potato wedges and an incredibly sickly chocolate cake to get us in the mood for the icy stares of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood…anyone think Mezza Bezza has turned in to such a villain this series?!

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I wish I could accompany these pictures with a lovely recipe but to be honest, I had a very lazy bake thanks to good old Betty Crocker!

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Today’s restaurant review is actually from a visit a few weeks ago but it was that good I still remember every bite!

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The Stable is a South-West chain of restaurants specialising in three things: pizza, pies and cider. Whilst I love a menu bursting with tempting dishes to order, I also admire a restaurant that has the guts to limit themselves to a few items but done incredibly well…it seems to be working for all these burger chains that are everywhere at the moment!

Located in the old Hole in the Wall restaurant, The Stable is cosy and has a really friendly and relaxed atmosphere. I visited with my Mum and Ian for dinner and we managed to get a booth for optimum people watching.

We started with a cider each and the menu for these was pretty impressive. My Mum opted for something sweet with berries, Ian had some true Somerset Scrumpy and I chose a ginger and chili sweet cider which was delicious.

The menu was so tempting but in the end Ian and I ordered pizzas and my Mum had one of their pies.

The pizzas have an amazing sourdough base and the toppings are really inventive and much more interesting than your usual options. I had The Lamb Roast which included roasted lamb, goats milk cheddar, thyme-roasted sweet potato chunks, caramelised onions, tomato and mozzarella. This reminded me of a really good flatbread and it was honestly one of the best pizzas I have ever had.

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Ian surprised  me slightly by going for a veggie option, The Fitzwilliam. This was topped with herb-roasted potatoes, Bath blue cheese, caramelised onions, spinach, tomato and mozzarella. We swapped a slice of our pizzas and his was really good too.

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Like me, my Mum is a fan of a good, hearty pie and she ordered the Chicken, Leek and Ham with a thyme crust served with chunky potato wedges, salad, chutney and a seriously good picked onion. The pie was really good but it does feel like they have taken something traditional and hearty and tried to make it a bit posh by putting it on a trendy serving platter with some salad…what’s wrong with good old mash and gravy?!

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We also had unlimited bowls of salad and didn’t realise until the bill came that Tuesday nights had an offer which meant a pizza or a pie and a cider was just £10!

Overall, I cannot recommend this place enough for a good pizza and a pint of local cider. If you go on Tuesdays you get a bit of a bargain but for the quality of the ingredients and range of drinks, I would eat here any night of the week! x

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Restaurant Review – Mat Follas at The Casterbridge, Dorchester

Ummmm….where’s the sun gone?! Please tell me this rain/ hail/ wind is merely temporary and full sunshine service will be resumed shortly!!!

I have spent today sheltering indoors whilst upcycling some furniture; a new chair for our bedroom and a table for the hallway. I like giving old furniture a new lease of life this way but don’t usually have the time to spend a few days sanding and painting.

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Today I wanted to share a restaurant we visited whilst camping in Dorset recently. For my birthday two years ago, Ian treated me to lunch at The Wild Garlic in Beaminster, a charming restaurant owned by Masterchef winner Mat Follas. I was desperate to go back again when we were in the area but learned that Mat is now cooking at The Casterbridge Hotel in nearby Dorchester so we headed there instead!

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We started with cocktails in the lounge (a little bit formal for my liking) and I had ‘Mat’s Fizz’, a champagne cocktail with elderflower and lavender. This was very sweet but delicious with the lavender giving it a lovely purple colour.

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Seeing as this meal was to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, we decided to push the boat out and opt for the 6 course tasting menu…because why not?!

To start, we had a cup of spiced roast tomato soup, served cold like a gazpacho. This had the aniseed-like taste of fennel and packed a punch with the chili. You could ask for this to be served hot but I liked the contrast between the heat of the chili and the chilled soup.

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Next up was one of my favourite things, scallops. These were small but cooked perfectly and served with black pudding, pickles and a creamy sauce.

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More fish followed with this beautiful piece of plaice (which Mat told us was fresh off the boat that morning) in a brown butter and samphire sauce served with clams and new potatoes. This was a really simple dish that just allowed the natural flavour and sweetness of the fish shine through. I would definitely order this again if I returned.

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We had a beetroot and carrot amuse-bouche next which was refreshing followed by triple cooked pork belly. Just typing that makes me hungry! This pork belly had been slow cooked for 18 hours and was falling apart when you cut into it. It was presented beautifully and served with roasted heirloom vegetables, a sweet potato puree and a big chunk of crackling.

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We finished up with two puddings, the first of which both Ian and I hated but the second of which more than made up for it!

The dish was simply called ‘Elderflower and Gooseberries’ and was in fact a delicious elderflower jelly topped with the most sour and acidic tasting gooseberry cream. I can see that the sweetness of the elderflower was meant to complement the tartness of the gooseberries but the cream was just way too sour for my tastes. This was the only negative of the meal for me but the guy on the table behind us was raving about this dish so different strokes for different folks and all that!

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I finished up with ‘Chocolate and Pear’, a lemon-poached pear and the most decadent and gooey chocolate brownie which was topped with peanut powder. I was pretty full at this point but could not resist practically licking the plate clean!

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Ian was all pudding-ed out at this point so he had the cheeseboard to finish up which had a great selection of local cheeses and crackers.

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The tasting menu was just under £50 per person which I can justify as it was a treat and the quality of the food was fantastic. The location is not as nice as The Wild Garlic but I get the impression that this hotel venue is only temporary. I did have a slight fangirl moment when Mat came out to talk us through some of the dishes and he was so keen to discuss the food and where it was sourced from.

Overall, this was a very decadent evening with a wonderful selection of food and I recommend this place if you find yourself along the south coast.

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Restaurant Review – The Feathers, Woodstock

I’ve been staying with my parents this week as my Mum had her next surgery but I’m back home now and trying to catch up on things before work tomorrow. I can’t seem to shake this horrible cough I’ve had for almost 2 weeks now so am currently sounding like a 40-a-day smoker…nice!

Today, I wanted to review the 5-course taster menu we had during our stay at The Feathers Hotel in Woodstock a few weeks ago. I am kicking myself as I didn’t get a copy of the menu so my descriptions will have to be from memory but luckily it was a rather memorable meal and the photos have helped too!

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The dining room here is lovely – very light and airy with crisp linen tablecloths and we nabbed a window seat to do a bit of people watching while we ate!

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We started with some lovely homemade herby bread while we perused the wine menu and then had our amuse-bouche of carrot soup. This was a lovely, sweet soup and very tasty but I was hoping for something a little more exciting.

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Next, we had asparagus, wrapped in Parma ham then coated in crispy parmesan breadcrumbs. This was served with some sort of foam but I found it rather redundant as it didn’t really taste of anything. This was a lovely little starter and one I could see myself trying to replicate at home for a starter.

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Next, we had beetroot carpaccio served with a lovely goats cheese cream and other salad bits. I loved this combination and it was tasty but absolutely tiny…I could have eaten three of these portions!

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For our main course, we had rump of lamb which is one of my favourite meats. This was served with a truffle mash, greens and crispy curried sweetbreads. I loved every element of this dish but wish we could have had a touch more gravy as it was really good. The lamb was perfectly cooked and so tender and the sweetbreads added a great texture to the plate.

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Finally, for pudding we had a decadent chocolate mousse which was so rich neither of us managed to finish it! Although I love chocolate, I’m not a huge fan of chocolate flavoured things, like mousse, so this wasn’t my favourite course.

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We had a lovely bottle of Chilean merlot with our meal but I was a bit miffed when I noticed there was a wine flight available which had been matched to each course and was not offered to us. Apart from this, the service was friendly although the waiter who insisted on refilling our water glasses every five minutes was a tad over attentive!

Whilst there was nothing ground-breaking to try, and no fish course, this was a well-rounded tasting menu with my two favourite courses being the asparagus and the lamb. The five course menu is available for £55 per person.

Restaurant Review – Bath Brew House Vs Mr Trotter

On Thursday, Ian and I had the most amazing meal at one of our favourite places to eat, The Bath Brew House. We were there last weekend eating with friends and noticed a ‘Pork Scratchings and Beer Event’. I signed us up and we arrived at their private dining room upstairs.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect but it turned out to be a great night. All the guests were sat around a huge table meaning conversation was flowing. The partners of the pub were there as well as Rupert from Mr Trotter’s, one of the hosts of the evening.

Mr Trotter’s are behind a new kind of Pork Scratchings, aiming to take the good old pub pork scratching to another level. There were packets of their Great British Pork Crackling on the table upon arrival and they were delicious dipped in to some homemade apple sauce.

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We were presented with an innovative 4 course menu with all dishes incorporating pork scratchings in some way. The head chef presented each dish and the head brewer on site talked us through the different beers she had chosen to match and complement each course.

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Rupert also gave us a thoroughly entertaining talk on his business, the history of pork scratchings and finished with Roald Dahl poetry which I loved!

Anyway, onto the food…

We started with a soup course: celery, apple and smoked cheddar soup with a pork scratching crouton and a jug of Classic Best Bitter by James Street Brewery. The soup was sweet and hearty and the crouton added a lovely crunch. I have had several wine flights to accompany meals but this was the first time that I had tried it with beer and I have to say that with the tasting notes from the head brewer, I could really appreciate the pairings.

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Next we were brought a roasted tomato, sweet potato and mozzarella stack with a balsamic glaze and pork scratching sprinkles, served with a delicious American style pale ale by Camden Town Brewery.  This was a well-balanced dish and again the pork scratchings worked well. We found out that Mr Trotter’s are used in both Rick Stein and Jamie Oliver’s restaurants, crushed and sprinkled over various dishes and I am definitely going to try it next time I make a fish pie.

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For our main course, we had a bowl of smoked pork chili con carne with brown rice, sour cream and some pork scratching dippers. This was matched with my favourite beer of the evening; a chocolate stout brewed by ‘Project Venus’, an all-female group of beer brewers. Again, this was lovely and had just the right amount of spice for me.

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I had been wondering how pork scratchings would find their way into a pudding and I have to admit that they did it pretty well! We were served mason jars filled with stewed apples, peanut butter and raspberry jam, topped with an oat and pork scratching crumble and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This was a great combination of sweet and savoury and I love desserts with peanut butter in!

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With a few promotional packs of scratchings in my handbag(!), we headed downstairs to enjoy their beer festival. A few beers and some live music under fairy lights in the garden was a perfect end to the evening and I have to say I am definitely a pork scratching convert!