The Camping Cookbook

The Camping Cookbook is the latest book we’ve received from Parragon’s Love Food range.

The Camping Cookbook

The Camping Cookbook has over 70 recipes which are designed to be cooked when you go camping.

That’s our first stumbling block – with my back camping has been something we haven’t considered at all. Actually, next year I fully intend to do a festival – maybe Camp Bestival if I can get my act together (there was no way we could do it this year). My previous camping experiences have been the Reading Festival, so I’m no stranger to doing it – I just haven’t with a child.

Which is where this book comes in handy – Spicy Fried Eggs? It doesn’t look too tricky, though you need the right ingredients – whereas Campfire Quesadillas are fabulously simple and straightforward. If you want to get a bit more adventurous, how about Parsnip & Potato Rosti? Oh, and don’t rule out desserts either – Crunchy Ginger Apples have already caught my eye.

The Camping Cookbook - Campfire Quesadillas

All the recipes I’ve looked at involve a frying pan and gas stove – camping essentials which you’ll have anyway – they don’t take long and they’re that bit more adventurous than plain old fried egg with beans on toast. I have never made S’Mores, but looking at the Banana and Dark Chocolate S’mores recipe, I think even I could do it… that’s the beauty of this book – the recipes are nice and easy to try.

Would I use these for a festival? The more basic recipes, definitely. Would I use these if I was camping somewhere on a proper campsite? Definitely.

I love the shape of the book -plus it is packed with tons of ideas for breakfasts, mains, sides and desserts which is going to inspire me most of all. There is also guidance on meal planning, as well as camping advice such as essential equipment and where to pitch your tent. I know this is a book I’ll be turning to next year anyway!

The Camping Cookbook is available now!

We were sent The Camping Cookbook for the purpose of review as part of the Parragon Book Buddies group – all opinions are our own.

Christmas Gift Ideas – Window Shopping at the Science Museum

The Science Museum has several fabulous shops within it, and many things I wanted to buy. Seeing as how I’ve concentrated on almost everyone else in the family, and gift ideas for them, I thought I’d add my own little virtual wishlist of things. A lot of these I’d love but realistically there’s nowhere to keep them though, our kitchen is small.

However, small is good when it comes to a proper spice rack, such as this one, right? There’s only space for five so I’d need several of them… at £20 they’re not cheap but how cool would my kitchen look?

Test Tube Spice Rack

Obviously I’d need matching salt and pepper pots to go alongside it. Fortunately these exist and are only £12.  They are possibly not practical for a four year old though. They look much more stylish than my existing ones.

Salt & Pepper

Marinading is a scientific process apparently, so I’m all for this pipette brush – and the glass bottle looks pretty fab, and would sit perfectly alongside the previous two.  It’s like I’m meant to own them.

Marinade with Pipette Brush

This though, this is what I crave. This is what I need. I never realised I needed it until I saw it, and from that point I knew my kitchen would not be complete without it – a Salad Zinger. See, I like making salad dressing but it’s always boring – with a Salad Zinger you add all the ingredients, it chops up the fresh stuff at the bottom and makes a yummy dressing. It sounds so simple, my only question is whether it is dishwasher-friendly or not. At £25 it’s pricey, especially compared to the $25 you can get it for in the US, but I’m willing to take a risk. I also squirmed at the oil and fat being put into it on the picture. Seriously?

Salad ZingerAfter all this, I’d then quite like to sit and relax after eating, and what better way to do it than sitting around the table with a pretty flower in a pretty vase, right. Or just a vase like this. They look pretty sturdy, although I’d rather pick one up in person than buy one online I think… only £15 too!

Edison Medium Bulb


So there you go, if family are reading this, this is my kind of Christmas this year. I’m going for a minimal look. Everything here is available at the Science Museum in London and I had to stop myself from getting the credit card out to buy several of these at the weekend… ho ho ho!


The Higgidy Cookbook

Quercus Books have just published The Higgidy Cookbook by Camilla Stephens. I bought it the day it came out and have drooled over the pages since. Now you’ve got a chance to do the same as I have a copy to give away.

The Higgidy Cookbook is full of recipes – 100 to be precise – for pies and so much more.While a few of the pies and tarts don’t have visuals, there’s a lot of end pictures in there – and where I’ve loved previous cookbooks for breaking down each process, for this one all you truly need to know is how to make a good pastry and a good filling and have the right guidance. This book does all that.

The Higgidy Cookbook is broken into sections – Simple Suppers, Party Pies, Quirky Quiches and Tempting Tarts, Pudding Pies and Sweet Treats, and Easy Extras & Perfect Pastry. On the last chapter we may have mistaken some Sticky Onions for Portugese Custard Tarts – they look pretty similar! (though obviously taste different)

Being one who doesn’t like to wait, tonight I decided to try one of the pies – the Strawberry and Apricot Freeform Tart – which starts with the most tempting of sentences:  ‘This is a great recipe for novice bakers and enthusiasts alike’ – plus it looks pretty awesome too.

The Higgidy Cookbook

Being as weight-conscious (and cost-conscious) as I am, I bought Sainsburys Basics strawberries (two packs, £1.50 each), a tin of Apricots (£1ish?) and added some dried ones. I still didn’t have enough fruit to make up the 500g I needed, so added two pears which worked.

Essentially, you make your pastry, leave it to chill for thirty minutes then roll out and put into a dish, bake for 45-50 minutes and voila, you have your dish.

I found the instructions really clear and simple to follow. We were missing one ingredient (cornflour) and I didn’t substitute with anything else which left the tart oozing with juice but not ruined which was a relief. H says “it’s the best tart ever” and Shaun thinks “it’s pretty awesome”. Me? I’m quite pleased it wasn’t a disaster in any way! The pastry was crispy and well cooked, the fruit warm and tangy. The best bit? You can use fruit which is going a bit soft for this too!

I was offered a chance to review The Higgidy Cookbook, but as I intended to anyway and bought it, I am instead offering the copy as a giveaway. Answer one simple question, then there’s a few additional things you can do via Rafflecopter to gain some extra entries. UK residents only please, and the closing date is two weeks today, the 8th October 2013.

All entries will be checked to make sure the rules were followed, as it’s unfair to say you’ve commented and to not leave one, and one winner will be sent a copy of The Higgidy Cookbook from the PR company. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Vegetarian Step By Step from Parragon Books

Vegetarian Step By Step from Parragon Books is my kind of cookbook. I’m definitely a visual learner, rather than reading pages that describe what to do and getting a bit lost.

Vegetarian Step by Step from Parragon Books

Vegetarian Step By Step from Parragon Books is taken from their Love Food range, and features loads of meat-free meals grouped into Soups & Starters, Salads & Light Meals, Midweek & Family Suppers and Special Occasions. The recipes are presented in a really good way, lots of pictures so you can see what you’re doing, and written clearly so even impatient people like me who miss instructions don’t go wrong.

Lucy recommended the Spaghetti with Fresh Pea Pesto and Broad Beans, so that was our first stop as she’s a good lady who knows her food. I love how the recipe is set out and it’s based on ingredients you’ll probably already have. I know good cooking is based on good photo presentation and this book makes me want to try everything. Like the other Love Food book we’ve reviewed, it’s presented in a really uncomplicated way.

For this recipe, the pesto is made from cooked peas blended with garlic and cheese until it makes a paste, with added almonds at the end, plus salt and pepper seasoning. All you do after that is boil the broad beans, remove the skins and add to spaghetti. Toss the pesto in there at the very end.

Oh my, it’s good. This is where I’d normally have a photo, but I was horribly disorganised and didn’t take one. So instead see the presentation of the recipe, and you’ll see what I mean.

Vegetarian Step by Step recipe

I’ve been a vegetarian for 30 years now, and I’m happy this book isn’t packed with mushroom or tomato recipes – my two least favourite things. So many places seem to assume vegetarians like them, and it drives me mad. Where there are recipes which feature them, I’ve found they’re not the main part so can be substituted with something else easily.

Now I’ve got more time in the evenings with working shorter days, I can see me trying out more of these recipes. The Roasted Root Soup with Ginger and Créme Fraîche looks particularly good!

Vegetarian Step By Step is available now, and is currently £9.86 at Amazon, with a RRP of £16.00

I received my copy of Vegetarian Step By Step as I am a Parragon Book Buddy. All opinions are my own and honest.

Schwartz 2 in 1 Range – Mediterranean Chicken Pasta and Cheesy Crumb

Schwartz 2 in 1 is a new range of spices you can add to dishes. They’re simple to use, there’s clear instructions and the Mediterranean Chicken Pasta and Cheesy Crumb is suitable for vegetarians, so I gave it a go.

Schwartz 2 in 1 is part of a BritMums challenge to use it in a dish you’d normally eat, but as we’ve been off our food for the last week we’re late. The Schwartz 2 in 1 range has some spice to cook with your food and a second sachet which you use as a topping – easy – even I can do this one.

I bought some Quorn fillets over the weekend with this in mind, and realised I needed more, so raided what was left in the freezer – which were two veggie burgers.

Schwartz 2 in 1
I chopped them up, and cooked them, adding some red pepper (the recipe suggests yellow but we had none). I also added a courgette and some carrot so it wasn’t too pasta and cheese-based and had more veg.

Schwartz 2 in 1

After that you’re meant to get the first sachet and mix it with some tomatoes and water – I used passata and didn’t read the instructions properly, adding it straight to my quorn and vegetable mixture – fortunately it wasn’t a disaster!

Schwartz 2 in 1
200g of pasta was being cooked, and once ready I added it to the mixture and transferred it to one of my favourite oven dishes.

Schwartz 2 in 1

After that it was a case of adding the other sachet of topping as well as some grated cheese (I used some Tickler Extra Mature – we discovered Tickler at the Devon County Show and I’ve been buying it since – and you don’t need as much as it’s really strong) , popped it under the grill for a few minutes and let it cool down.

Schwartz 2 in 1

Then we sat outside and stuffed our faces! (actually, we ate half, it’s really filling and very yummy). As a sidenote, Schwartz, if you read this, I’d never have bought this, assuming it wasn’t suitable for vegetarians – so I’m happy it is!

This post is a (very late so doesn’t qualify) entry for BritMums ‘What’s for Dinner Tonight?’ sponsored by Schwartz. Find out more about the new 2in1 mixes here. We were sent two different varieties to try, all opinions are our own.

James Martin Spice Grinder from Wahl

We were given an opportunity to review the James Martin Spice Grinder from Wahl – and the most appealing thing to me was making my own spice mixtures and being in full control of what’s going in our food.

Firstly I checked through the various mixes in the recipe booklet. I’m vegetarian, but Shaun and H eat meat so it needed to be compatible for both.

Actually – and this is where something like cookery or chemistry would have interested me had they taught it like this at school – I was really impressed how the same spices can make such different flavours.

Grinding spice

We’ve tried the Garam Masala and the Spicy Cajun recipes – though we adapted the latter so it wasn’t too much for H (and I didn’t have any oregano) – and was impressed with the results.

My next plan is to work out the ingredients and quantities in spices we use a lot such as the Schwartz Garlic Italian and make our own – my problem is time and having any, so it needs to be quick. My herb and spice collection is looking pretty good right now and is being used a lot more.

This morning we used it for some coffee beans and found it ground them up as finely as you’d get if you bought from a shop – and all the way through. This took 30 seconds of pulsing. Lovely!

Coffee Grinder

The Spice Grinder is small and doesn’t take up space in the cupboard, the power cord wraps around the base and stores away with no bulk. As far as cleaning goes, it’s really simple to clean – though I wish there was a spout to channel your blended spice into containers (as I get it all over the counter). There’s a small attachment which can be used for smaller quantities too.

The question is, why have a spice grinder if you have a blender? I like how compact it is, you can do small batches (using the attachment on the top) and it also works on coffee beans. The spices will be blended finer too, and of course buying your spice in fresh means it smells better too. We used to use a pestle and mortar but time was our biggest issue. It grinds cinnamon and cloves well too and is controlled by pulsing rather than you leaving the mixture to blend.

The James Martin Spice Grinder retails for £17.49 and is available now.

We were sent the grinder for the purpose of review, all opinions are our own.

Weetabix Cake

Weetabix Cake is really simple to make, and we decided it was about time we involved her in the kitchen a bit more.

Weetabix cake isn’t something you’d think of when thinking about cake, but H made this at nursery the other day and after chatting to her key workers about how it’s made we decided to give it a go. They use butter where we used sugar, so it’s very adaptable. I’m thinking about adding bananas next time.

Get your pinny on… (hmm, could that be the theme for all my random cookery things?)

Weetabix Cake

Get two Weetabix. Crush them in a bowl.

Add a cup of raisins

Add a cup of sugar (this does seem a lot)

Add a teaspoon of mixed spice (we used cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger)

Mix the dry mixture together well

Add a cup of milk

Weetabix Cake

Mix into a dough. Splodge into a pre-greased tin and put in the oven at 160-170°c/325°f/Gas Mark 3 for 45 minutes. The Weetabix cake tastes yummy – I think next time we’ll use less sugar and more spice, but it was lovely and crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside – and you’d never know that it was made with Weetabix… I’m now pondering whether we try using a Weetabix cake for H’s birthday cake this year… hmmm!

Weetabix Cake

with thanks to most of the internet for all your various recipes which we adapted slightly!

Cupcake Cookies Making with Magic Belles

H is becoming quite obsessed with the Magic Belles – six really lovely little fairies who sprinkle their magic dust as they go, each with their own ‘wonder’. She’s been signed up with the FREE Flutterbud Club – yes, you read that correctly, and if you have a young girl then really truly sign them up as it’s lovely – every month H gets a picture, badge, sticker, book to make and loads of activities within that.

We were lucky to be chosen as one of a few bloggers to receive a special treat from Cupcake Belle – a recipe and of course the all-important things you need to make cookies.

Wednesday is my day off, so H and I headed to the shops and got to work…

When we got home I weighed out the main ingredients – so that’s 125g of unsalted butter, 125g of caster sugar, 250g plain flour and had a medium egg and some vanilla extract ready. In the meantime H laughed at me a lot when I told her to “put her pinny on”.

Magic Belles Cupcakes

So H mixed the butter and sugar together

We cracked and added the egg together and she carefully measured the vanilla extract with her special measuring spoons

I helped a little bit with mixing, mainly guiding her to make sure she did it right, as she seemed to want to rush it rather than do it slowly and carefully. H was in charge though, never let it be said otherwise.

Magic Belles Cupcakes

After that we sifted in half the flour and mixed, then the other half and eventually made the mixture into a dough. I then wrapped it in clingfilm and left it in the fridge for about four hours while we went out to soft play and swimming.

We got back and I needed the bigger rolling pin to get the dough rolled out, once we’d done it H cut a few cupcake shapes, and we laid them out on a tray to be baked – 20 minutes later and they were done.

Magic Belles Cupcakes

Then all we had to do was roll out the icing and cut out more shapes and roll pink icing and trim it for the cupcake top (which I did as it’s a sharp knife) then get some water and make sure the icing was stuck to the biscuit, add sprinkles and a small circle of icing on top and voila! Sugar treats for us (which will be shared with my mum at the weekend as there’s lots of them!).

Thank you Magic Belles – the key thing I spotted with this was how much H felt like this was ‘hers’ – she had her special mixing bowl and measuring cups and tools as well as a hat and pinny, and she did the majority of the mixing and making – the recipe is simple enough for a three year old to manage (like H) without being complicated. Add to that she thinks Cupcake Belle is her favourite and really you’re on to a winner.

I like to work her hard 🙂

Magic Belles Cupcakes

For more Magic Belles information head here

To join the excellent Flutterbud Club head here

We were provided with money for ingredients and goodies to make the cookies, all opinions are our own.

Easy Quesadillas

This recipe is a so-obvious-I-can’t-believe-we-haven’t-done-this-before one.

You need :

Tortillas (we used the Weight Watchers ones, 3 points each, though 5 points for two which was good)
cheese (I had a WW cheese slice – 1 point)

Whichever vegetables you want (we did a red and yellow pepper)

splash of oil

Spray the oil in your pan and cook the vegetables a tiny bit – add spice here if you want some.

Get your tortilla – put the cheese on it, then when the pepper is cooked add that.

Put a second tortilla on top

Weight Watchers Friendly Quesadillas

Place into oven, which should be on a low heat – enough to melt cheese and warm the tortilla, and leave in there for five minutes

Take out, and slice into four or six pieces. Eat straight away. If you want to add some cream to it, Quark is a good substitute and is low points too.

Yum! They’re a slightly more interesting variation on toasties too.