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Restaurant Review – The Moonraker, Bradford on Avon

Kind of a new restaurant review today…

We ate at the Milking Parlour back in October and it has recently been renamed as The Moonraker. We loved the tasting menu we ate there last time so were looking forward to revisiting this place which has recently gone through a rebrand.

I’m not sure what I was expecting but it was lovely to see that there was very little change in the welcoming dining room and bar and they hadn’t try to fix what wasn’t broken! I was also glad to see there was still a strong emphasis on using lots of local ingredients and produce grown within the grounds.

We ordered my favourite red (a Chilean merlot) and waited for our first course. As we were sampling the taster menu, we didn’t get an actual menu to peruse which I didn’t mind because a) we aren’t fussy and will eat pretty much anything and b) it kept an element of surprise to the evening!

Our first course was soup served with toasted bread in a cup and saucer. The soup itself was a rich beef broth with beef tongue, winter vegetables and girolle mushrooms. I know some people may balk at the idea of tongue but it was delicious and full of flavour.

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A slight moan about these next two courses as they were exactly the same as the ones we ate on our last visit. I would hope that a taster menu would change at least monthly so whilst they were both absolutely delicious (the beetroot salad was my favourite course!) it was a tad disappointing not to try something new.

Anyway, next up we had an incredible salad of lightly pickled beetroot, whipped goats cheese and micro greens served with peanuts, walnuts and a glaze. The crunch of the nuts really added to this salad and I could have eaten two or three plates of this!

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We had hay-smoked salmon after that served with an apple and celeriac remoulade and leaves. We both love smoked salmon and this went down well with the rich fish complimenting the creamy remoulade.

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For our main course, we had another interesting meat choice in the form of venison. This was made into a chilli and served with gnocchi. I’m a bit love/hate with gnocchi – I don’t mind it as an accompaniment but find a whole bowl of it a bit chewy and dense. Luckily, there was a good amount of venison served with the pasta. The chilli was quite spicy for me but full of flavour.

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Finally, for pudding we had a wafer-thin crisp filled with caramel and topped with a chocolate crème brulee. This was incredible, rich but incredible! I’m not too sure what the little amaretto biscuit on the side added to the dish but I loved it.

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Up to this point, I couldn’t fault the service but as per our first visit, we found that we struggled to get a waiter’s attention to pay. I was too tired to wait around so marched up and paid at the bar instead – my only real complaint, especially as this was the second time it had happened.

We found another deal on Amazon for this meal which I would recommend as it means you get a real bargain for some excellent quality food.

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Recipe – Tom Yum Noodle Soup

We have been having a lot of soups lately. Today’s recipe is by no means an authentic, traditional Tom Yum soup (I don’t think the proper version has noodles in it) but it is my version and one that is quick and easy to make yet packed with flavour. It is really more of an aromatic broth and has a hot yet slightly sour taste.

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The noodles are optional and I enjoy this soup both with and without them. You can even do the super trendy Pinterest thing and take this to work in pretty mason jars…yeah, I did that!

I love using baby corn in this recipe and also had some pretty heritage carrots to add in the mix. Some greens, like sugar snap peas, work well and then a handful of fresh herbs and a squeeze of lime really finish it off. You could also throw in some prawns, chicken or beef but I like to keep this veggie.

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Ingredients

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A jar of Tom Yum paste

A handful of bite-sized vegetables (I used sugar snap peas, baby sweetcorn, orange and yellow carrots)

A strip of dried egg noodles

Fresh lime

Fresh coriander

How to make it

  • Half fill a saucepan with boiling water
  • Add a generous teaspoon of Tom Yum paste and stir well

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  • Add the vegetables and simmer for 5-10 minutes

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  • Add your noodles to the pan and allow to cook for another few minutes until softened

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  • Serve with a squeeze of lime and plenty of fresh coriander

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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!

Beauty Review – January Birchbox

There was a cake sale in school today so I spent a lovely evening baking and have some delicious recipes to post soon. Firstly, I wanted to share this month’s Birchbox with you (before the month is over!)

As expected, this month’s theme is all about the new year and a new start to your beauty routine. They seem to have done away with their little drawstring bags, instead wrapping the goodies with tissue paper.

Here was my first look…

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The first thing I noticed was this big bottle of Tommyguns Fig, Plum and Marshmallow conditioner – no mini samples here! This stuff smells amazing and I cannot wait to try it out. I will probably buy the shampoo too so I can test the range out together.

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Next, a Benefit product – one of my favourite brands. The POREfessional is somewhat of a cult product and is a primer that can be used over or under make up. It feels very lightweight to apply and transforms into a beautiful velvet finish, with great coverage, when blended. I can see myself buying the full-sized version of this!

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I can always find a place for a new shower gel and this one by Noble Isle in ‘Willow Song’ smells wonderful. It claims to evoke the fresh green of the British countryside and whilst it is lovely, I can’t see myself buying the full-sized bottles at £20 a pop.

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Next, a cleanser by Vasanti. I love using foaming facial cleansers at the end of the day, so this one is next on my list to try out.

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The final beauty piece is a moisturising body oil by Premae. I haven’t heard of this brand but I’m not a huge fan of body oils – I much prefer a body butter or cream. This is probably my least favourite item in this month’s box.

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Finally, I love the fact that Birchbox includes a little extra non-beauty related item in most of its boxes and this month it was some miso soup. Light, healthy and tasty, I’m sure I can find a recipe to use this in.

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Overall, I really liked this month’s box. I think it has a really good variety of products with a few treats to test out.

I’m off out now for some dinner (trying to choose between sushi and burgers!) then seeing Russell Kane tomorrow night…it’s almost Friday! x

Recipe – Thai Chicken Noodle Soup

Sunday nights can vary for me. If I know I have left things to the last minute then it can be a slightly stressful affair trying to get myself ready for school, tidy the house, do some laundry and paint my nails. At other times I can fit so much in to my weekend that I don’t really feel like I have had a break so start to get those Sunday night blues about having to go back to work so soon.

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Tonight however, I feel quite content with things. My aim was to get our conservatory prepped, primed and painted this weekend and we have achieved this. We also had a cinema date this afternoon to watch The Wolf of Wall Street (a must-see in my opinion!) so it hasn’t been all work and no play. There is a roast dinner in the oven, I am more or less up-to-date with work stuff and I may even squeeze in a quick manicure too…not a bad Sunday night really!

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I wanted to post this recipe on a Sunday because it is a great recipe for using up your leftover meat from a roast dinner – chicken, pork and beef will work especially well. I actually used chicken breast pieces in mine but I often cook this soup on Mondays with whatever meat we have from our Sunday roast and it is delicious!

The beauty of this recipe is that you can play around with the ingredients depending on what you like and what is in season. You could use fish or tofu, or keep it veggie and add lots of seasonal vegetables to this vibrant dish.

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Ingredients

Enough roasted meat for two people or two chicken breasts, chopped into bite-sized chunks

3-4 teaspoons of thai curry paste (I used thai green curry)

1 can of coconut milk (I used the reduced fat stuff this time)

1 small tin of sweetcorn

3 carrots, thinly sliced

3 spring onions, diagonally sliced

2 sheets of egg noodles

A handful of fresh coriander

How to make it

  • If you are using raw chicken breasts, begin by browning off your meat in a little oil until golden brown and cooked through. Set your meat to one side when done.
  • In a saucepan, add your curry paste and cook on a low heat for a few minutes until the spices have started to release their fragrances
  • Add the meat to the pan and stir wellthai1
  • Add the coconut milk and simmer on a low heat, stirring continuously for 3-5 minutesthai2
  • Meanwhile, pour some boiling water on your noodles and allow to soften for a few minutes
  • Now add your vegetables and noodles to the panthai4
  • Heat through then serve with a generous sprinkling of fresh corianderthai6

Review – Soup Maker

Well I’ve had a bit of a rubbish start to the week, being sent home poorly at lunchtime then spending all afternoon dozing on the sofa. Actually, that last part was quite good but I have absolutely no appetite which is not like me at all!

Today is a little review of sorts and I thought it would be useful for those of you who are struggling to find a Christmas present for a loved one who likes a kitchen gadget. This soup maker actually belongs to my Mum and I tested it out with her last time I visited my parents.

Truth be told, I was slightly dubious when my Mum told me about this… I mean, how hard is it to make soup?! However, I make a lot of soup through the week to take into work for my lunch and I have to say I am a convert to this gadget!

Here it is in all its glory, kind of like a large kettle.

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It is so so simple to use that even the least confident cook will be able to make a steaming bowl of fresh soup in less than half an hour. The timer on it makes sure the vegetables aren’t overcooked so that they don’t lose any of their nutritional value too.

We made a butternut squash, carrot and sweet potato soup and simply threw in the roughly chopped vegetables (1 red onion, 2 sweet potatoes, 2 carrots, half a butternut squash), salt, pepper, and a pinch of curry powder, then topped up with some stock, pressed the button and sat back.

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The machine is almost silent as it is cooking then you hear the blender kick in after about 20 minutes and you can choose whether you want a chunky soup or a smooth velvety consistency.

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We served ours with some grated cheddar on top and some buttered, crusty bread and next door’s chickens looking on!

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My mum has a Morphy Richards model which I would recommend and is on Amazon for about £40. You can also use this to make juice and smoothies but we haven’t tried that yet.

Obviously you need to have the storage space for this but that is only slight negative I can think of. This handy gadget is a great way to ensure you use up any leftover vegetables and I think I would be far more likely to use this than make a soup in a pan if I was pushed for time as you don’t need to bother with such precise chopping or any sautéing. It also cuts down on the washing up too!

Recipe – Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup

We have had a lovely chilled-out Sunday with a long lie-in and a walk in the country. We saw these gorgeous cows snuggling (I didn’t know they did that!)

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Some inquisitive sheep

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And beautiful autumn colours

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We also stopped off at The Cross Guns, a lovely pub perched on the river, and I had my first Winter Pimm’s of the season with my lunch…delicious.

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Today’s recipe is a pretty near-perfect tomato soup, even if I do say so myself! I thought it would be a bit of a faff to roast the tomatoes first but by doing so it adds a bit more flavour and I enjoyed this for lunch for the next few days. I also think it would make a pretty good pasta sauce but unfortunately I had already eaten it all before I had a chance to test this theory out! Oh well, I shall make it again and then report back!

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Ingredients

12 large tomatoes (I used two trays)

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

A pinch of sugar

A pinch of dried basil

One onion, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

A small bunch of fresh basil, chop the stalks and leaves separately

About half a litre of chicken or vegetable stock (I prefer chicken)

2-3 tablespoons of crème fraîche

How to make it

  • Begin by slicing the tomatoes in half and lying face up on an oven tray
  • Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, sugar and a pinch of dried basiltsoup11
  • Roast in the oven at 180°C, Gas Mark 4 for about an hour until the tomatoes start to colour and chartsoup13
  • In a large pan, drizzle some olive oil and add the onion, carrot, garlic and basil stalks and cook on a low heat until they have started to softentsoup12
  • Add the roasted tomatoes and any juices from the baking tray then top with the stocktsoup6
  • Give everything a good stir, bring to the boil then simmer for 20-30 minutes until the vegetables have softened
  • Add your basil leaves and allow to wilttsoup9
  • Stir through the crème fraîchetsoup10
  • Use a stick blender to whizz up the soup to your preferred consistencytsoup1
  •  Season to taste (I often add a dash of balsamic vinegar right at the end to give some additional depth of flavour)
  • Serve with crusty bread and a final dollop of crème fraîche tsoup2