Christmas Meal in Kit from Hello Fresh


HelloFresh has cunning plan for Christmas dinner and I am here to tell you all about it. But first,

What's Hello Fresh?
It's a cross between a meal delivery company and a weekly food box, it's a cooking subscription box. Imagine somebody does the shopping, sort the ingredients for each meal, writes down the recipe instructions and delivers it to your door, all you need to do is ...cook. Sound stress free doesn't it?


HelloFresh Christmas Dinner guide
So now imagine that the same somebody creates a guide to Christmas dinner with a brilliant timing sheet. A guide which includes all the preparation jobs starting on Christmas eve and ends with the moment you pull the crackers. It explains all the when and how. Want to try it, head on over to Christmas Dinner Cheat Sheet right now.

My own experience             

As it was little early for Christmas dinner, I opted for a classic box for three. I was given a time when the delivery would arrive and was kept informed by email, so far so good.

When the box arrived, the first thing I noticed was the attention to packaging, everything is recycled, every ingredient is measured for the number of people and the recipe sheets are extremely precise. They even tell you how many of your five a day there is in each dish.

My box was representative of typical meals on offer: Sausage Chilli with Homemade Tortilla Chips, Beef Kofta Curry with Sag Aloo, Creamy Linguine with King Prawns and Serrano Ham.


Verdict on the Beef Kofta Curry with Sag Aloo- 45 minutes - 1.5 of your 5 a day the step- 

Remember all the ingredients are measure out for you. The amount of ingredients was generous and though it ended up being a very westernised curry it was nevertheless rather good. It was nice to have a curry with a side dish which wasn't rice.

The quality of the ingredients was excellent. The meat seemed fresher than in the supermarket and as far as I could see all the ingredients originated from the UK. HelloFresh promises organic and seasonal ingredients.

It would take me a little while to get use to such a regimented way a cooking and I struggled with the step by step, I made a few annoying mistakes but looking at the instructions again, it is fool-proof.

And that is a good way to cook a Christmas dinner.


Pebble Soup makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are my own. This was a sponsored post on behalf of Hello Fresh

Pebble Soup Award Nominee

Pebble Soup has been nominated in the Foodie category of MyProtein Fitness Blogger Awards 2017


The extraordinary thing is that I knew nothing about it until the email arrived. And, even better it's a people vote which means that there are potentially 3 million+ people out there who voted for thousands of blogs and Pebble Soup made the shortlist of 10. Wow. 
So what happens next: 
We all cross fingers and make a wish because the decision is the hands of a panel of judges. But, I have got a cunning plan to seduce them. So look forward to:

  • Meal planning and what it means for a fitness plan
  • Matcha swirl shortbread biscuits
  • Goodbye Antonio Carluccio and my favourite Italian recipe.
So thanks to everyone out there that continues to read my blog. And on the 18th December, I'll tell you the results.

November 17 Inheritance Recipes Round Up


We would love more of you to join this challenge. We relay to thousands of followers and we love to see your recipes. In November Inheritance Recipes was small but perfect with

A Gluten Free Victoria Sandwich
Homemade Calamondin Marmalade
Delicious Vienna Doughnuts
and Caramalised Onions

In December Coffee and Vanilla will be hosting. Click here to be redirected to the linky

Les Sablés Scented with Fennel, Cumin and Aniseed Inspired by Avignon Christmas markets -

As a part of 12 Days of Blogmas, I've teamed up with Titan Travel this year to offer Fennel Seeds sablés biscuits recipe inspired by Christmas markets in Avignon, Head on over to their 12 Days of Blogmas to find recipes from other bloggers inspired by Christmas markets from around Europe.

Most people know Avignon for its bridge and its summer festival. Very few know of its Christmas traditions which in turns means that when the medieval town lights up in December, you will probably be one of the few tourists celebrating a Provençal Christmas


Christmas Market Avignon

A little bit of History: In the Middle-Ages, Avignon was the capital of the Christian world, nicknamed “The chiming Town”, it is unique for many reasons. The city encircled by its original ramparts encourages visitors to random walks through its alleyways and cobbled streets, past chapels and churches, medieval buildings, private mansions of the 18th and 19th century. It is so easy to slot into the quiet Provençal lifestyle away from the excessive commercial pressures.


Inside Le Palais des Papes Avignon

Glorious Food: Food is everywhere. Local gastronomy graces the markets like nowhere else, with a genuine reverence for its past and a real enthusiasm for modernity. Next time you fancy a Christmas market with a soul, Avignon is the place.

A Provençal Christmas: On the 24th of December, the midnight-mass takes place after the “big supper” and only then baby Jesus is placed in every crib around town


Each year, in Avignon, a 10 meters Provençal village with a crib at its heart, populated with Santons is recreated. In the past, Santons were made out of dried bread, painted and varnished. They are now delicately hand-painted terracotta figurines, about 20cm tall. To this day, each small figurine is made by hand and represents a character from Provençal village life such as the shepherd, chestnut seller, baker and even plumber. Th crib with its 600 santons “going about their business” in the shadow of a terracotta miniature Palais des Papes, tiny lavender fields and a barn awaiting for its Jesus-Santon.


Les Santons de Provence


In the chapel of The Palais des Roures there is a representation of “the big supper” with its famous 13 desserts.

13 desserts?

Representing the 12 apostles and Jesus Christ at the last supper
The Four Beggars or Les Quatres Mendiants representing the four religious orders
  • Raisins
  • Walnuts and Hazelnuts
  • Dried figs
  • Almonds
Then comes Pompe à Huile interpreted in various ways, it could be a soft cake flavoured with neroli or
  • a fougasse bread
Pompe a huile Fougasse
Next 3 types of nougats 
  • Nougat blanc, pistachios and pine nuts
  • Nougat noir, honey and almond
  • Nougat rouge, rose and pistachios
Fresh fruits
  • Grapes, melon, tangerines, oranges,
Then depending on the local variations you get
  • Dates
  • Candied Fruits
  • Quince cheese
  • Les Sablés scented with Fennel, Cumin and Aniseed
I love recreating recipes from our travels so let me take you to Avignon at Christmas with

Les Sablés scented with Fennel, Cumin and Aniseed


Sables biscuits



sablés are akin to shortbread biscuits, the uniqueness of these particular sablés is that they are served at the "apéritif" with white wine or Pastis - I decorated mine which in retrospect was a little over the top but makes for a lovely photo :))

Ingredients
125g plain flour
70g salted butter at room temperature
40g sugar
1 egg (+1 as you are not going to decorate)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp (rounded) fennel powder ( Traditionally fennel and cumin seeds are used but I prefer a smooth texture) 
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp ground aniseed

Method

  1. Mix flour and butter (this can be easily done by hand but use the mixer if you wish)

  2. Beat the egg, fennel, cumin seeds, aniseed, sugar together and add to the flour mixture
  3. Pat the dough into a rectangle, wrap in clingfilm and store in the fridge for minimum one hour up to 5 days
  4. Cut the rectangle into 2 halves and place one half between 2 sheets of baking paper
  5. Roll the dough to a thickness of 1 and a bit centimetre. Repeat. Discard the top sheet
  6. Cut between 15 to 20 shapes of your choice, remove the spare dough (that can be rolled out too)
  7. Chill in the fridge or the freezer until firm
  8. Preheat your oven to 180C
  9. Beat the egg and paint on each biscuit
  10. Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 15 minutes
  11. Cool on the rack repeat with the second sheet
Serve cold. They will keep for up to 4 days in an airtight container

Disclaimer: This post was written in partnership with Titan Travel 

Salmon and Chorizo - Midweek Meal

Have you got any chorizo left from last week Midweek Meal? That's great because I have got a new combination of flavours for you. This one comes with a warning. It is not to everybody's taste, he didn't like it. However, over 400 people at the Vuelio Blog Awards were served it as a starter and I was inspired.

The other piece of advice is: cut the chorizo in very small bits.



Salmon and Chorizo - Midweek Meal -

Ingredients
2 salmon fillets
8 olives no stone ready to be squashed :)
basil leaves
few small tomatoes
Method
Cook the salmon flesh side down in a large cold non-stick frying pan on medium-high heat. That's the best way to cook fish 3 minutes on the fleshy side first 5 minutes on the skin side so that you get  nice crispy skin.
In other pan, cook the chorizo on slow heat, when the oil is released squash in the olives with a splash of water. Serve on a bed of couscous or on its own with baby tomatoes


The Travel Bug

Who has not been riveted to the small screen to follow explorers crossing countries or read accounts of daring individuals' treks through the jungle? If this was the apanage of the few or the under 30 some time ago, making those dreams a reality is now easier than ever.

And, it’s never too late to start. In fact, 50s, 60s and beyond might be the ideal time to connect with your inner traveler, and if you’ve found yourself fantasizing about getting fit and tackling the Inca Trail now the kids have flown the nest, or giving whitewater rafting in Canada a go to celebrate a milestone birthday, you’re in good company.

Saga, the over 50's specialists recently approached me and asked my opinion on why people should travel despite their age. Here are my thoughts. 

When I was 20, with a record of failed studies and failed relationships in order to put as much distance between me and my troubles, I travelled to Mauritius and l'Ile de la Reunion in the Indian Ocean where my uncles live. When I came back, I had a vague notion that I could, one day, be a travel writer.


Putting pen to paper was difficult and in these days it was more a case of copying others original. I hadn't yet learned the art of stealing ideas and styles and make them my own, that would take several decades. In fact, be the first to hear the news, I have signed a contract to write a guidebook for an international publisher: 111 Places in the Lake District that you should miss. An amazing series.

But back to young me, as the writing was not going too well, I turned to the travelling, headed for Cairo Egypt, only to end up in Karachi Pakistan, clearly the organisation was lacking precision, even though, I was better at travelling than at writing.  Travel Bug springs to mind. A bug with a list, a list of exciting places.

GET INSPIRED
There is no age limit to travels, I remember an 80-year-old British lady whom I met in the jungle of Borneo. Inspired by a TV program, she was on her way to pay a visit to the Orangutans. She stood out but there is no reason why she should have, Indonesian people in the later years, do travel from one island to another every day. 

LIVE YOUR DREAM
Inspiration is everywhere, a list is a start but is it enough? It appears not. How many times do you hear people saying, I dream of going to ... but that it won't happen. And why not? we are very good at putting barriers to our travelling dreams or choosing the wrong destination to go to.  I'll never climb Everest but that doesn't stop the fact that taking a road trip along the foot of the Himalayas is probably one of the most awe-inspiring journeys I've ever done.

RAIL ROMANCE


The Canadian Train

There is something about travelling long distance by rail which can't be beaten.  Taking a train from a place to another far far away slows down the travelling process. Nose pressed against the window, the journey itself becomes the trip. When on a shoestring, it makes for weird and wonderful encounters and if the train is more luxurious the key word is "enjoy". Enjoy the food, enjoy the scenery, enjoy the time travelling. 

I have a fond memory of our trip from Toronto to Vancouver, I didn't see a black bear but he did and that was the cherry on the cake.

NOWHERE IS TOO NEAR


Palmyra before the war

People often ask "What's your favourite place?" No answer to that one. I enjoyed many places, Mongolia with its vast panoramas is an opportunity to see earth the way you never see it. I loved Jordan, the Lebanon for the hospitality of its people and count myself blessed for having visited Syria before the war 

Marshes in Albania
I have fond memories of Albania, its rural sceneries and incredible archaeological sites, Scotland always blows me away. And when it comes to the Lake District, well, the love affair started the day he rowed a little boat on Windermere, just for the two of us.

Disclaimer: 
Saga sponsored this post. The opinions expressed are my own and are not held by Saga.

Chicken and Chorizo Bake - Midweek Meal -

Opportunity knocks: A couple of years ago, I published a Chicken and Chorizo in Tomato Sauce recipe. It was delicious but as often at Pebble Soup HQ no two meals are the same or you would get bored. As a consequence, very few dishes join the classics and sadly they disappear from my mind and down a long list of recipes
Foreward to this month while staying in Grasmere,  I picked up the co-op magazine, old habits die hard. On the reader recipe page, there it was Chicken and Chorizo Bake by Dan Cullen-Shute from South London. By now, I had forgotten all about my own attempt but when I brought it to the table, He who has a little Ganesha brain reminded me that we had something similar before.

Still doesn't take away the fact that this is an easy recipe, perfect for a Midweek Meal.

Chicken and Chorizo Bake
based on a coop magazine reader's recipe
Ingredients
serves 2

2 Red onions, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic crushed
100g Chorizo ring
2 potatoes roughly chopped
2/4 chicken tights depending on the size
olive oil
fresh thyme if you happen to have
Salt and pepper

Method
Preheat the oven to 220C
Mix all the ingredients except for the oil in a bowl
Add the seasoning, oil, thyme (if using) and toss
Transfer to a baking tray
Bake for 45 minutes, baste halfway through

I'm sharing with #cookblogshare 
Hijacked By Twins



Good Life Cottages in the Lake District

It's almost signed and sealed, I got a book deal. A guidebook which is not a guidebook. The start of a new weird and wonderful adventure that took me and him to Grasmere, to test the water, not literally.

I provided the Good Life Cottages Company with my requirements and let the team choose for me the perfect accommodation for my first of many visits. On the basis that I needed a place to work, we had been given the keys to an apartment in the centre of Grasmere.

The Spinners is located on the top floor of an old coach house, above a cute restaurant and next to a chocolate shop. The master bedroom faces Grasmere primary school, I find that there is nothing more reassuring than the soundtrack of daily life while I work away and kids playing is in my top ten. Indeed, the Good Life Cottage team had found just the right place.

Good life cottages Grasmere

The Spinners is very large so much so that I'd started to unpack in one bedroom when I realised that he was unpacking in another. A master bedroom which I had not spotted in spite of the fact that it is vast with feature beams and tasteful decor.

What I liked the most, besides the fact that the kitchen was extremely well equipped, is the interior styling. The property is owned by a couple, one of which is an artist and there are examples of her work throughout the property.   
Good life cottages The Spinners

On the other hand, he was delighted with the CD player/Bluetooth speaker in the lounge. quick manipulation et voila we had the choice of all is soundtracks and playlists.

Good life cottages Dale End

After three days, reluctantly though filled with the expectation of the new, we moved a couple of miles away, in a much more rural part, along the lakeshore.
 I had requested a view after all.
Good life cottages Dale end view of Grasmere
No disappointment here: breakfast was taken gazing at the mist hovering over Grasmere Water, one of the smallest lakes in the area. A stunning view indeed.

Good life cottages Dale end kitchen
Shower Room - View 1.jpgDouble Bed.jpg
Not much of an opportunity to breakfast on the terrace as the fickle weather was up to no good but the two loungers by the large windows, doors made up for it.

If you are looking for a romantic getaway, or a place for a solo traveller this is a good place to come to. It is one big L shaped room, perfectly maintained and excellent to get away from it all.

No doubt that in the future, if all goes well, I'll report on other types of accommodation in this stunning area which has recently been awarded Unesco World Heritage status however they will need a lot to beat The Good Life Cottages Company's efficiency whose motto is "We know what makes a great Holiday" and so they do.

Disclaimer: My thanks to Good Life "part of the Original Cottages family" Cottages for allowing us to stay in both of the places reviewed. You can follow them on Twitter @goodlifelakes and on Facebook: @goodlifelakedisctrictcottages.

If you'd like to watch reviews of the cottages managed by this friendly company head to the Quirky Traveller


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