Everything but the Chef

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I’m not one to shy away from trying something new, and no more so is this true than with cooking. I love to cook and I find it easy to follow a recipe.

Our bookshelf is full of tomes containing delicious dishes. Granted, the Heston Fat Duck book or Gordon Ramsey 3 Star Chef rarely get used (if in fact ever – who has Liquid Nitrogen in their kitchen!) but Nigella, Jamie, Delia and more recently Nom Nom Paleo are used frequently.

It was with genuine interest then that I read about Hello Fresh on Alex’s blog. What a great idea! Recipes to cook at home with measured ingredients sent to you. I decided to give it a go.

At £42 for a no-strings trial box it contains ingredients and recipe cards for three meals for two people (they do a four person box too). Not bad given that we usually shop on a weekly basis for three meals out of five and it works out the same if not more than this.

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The box arrived on Tuesday and all the ingredients were carefully packaged in wool and ice to keep them cool. After unpacking and cooing over the cute branding (such a marketing geek!), I was ready for our first meal.

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The recipe cards that come inside the box are really easy to follow and since everything is (mostly) measured out for you, it’s really very easy indeed. No chef’s course skills needed here!
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The Harissa Chicken with Pomegranate Tabbouleh that I made yesterday was so tasty and I was very proud that my attempt looked just like the picture on the card. It was also enough for three (with our portions anyway) so Mum got to enjoy it too. So delicious!

What I like about this way of eating is that you don’t know what you are going to get in your box (although you can absolutely specify allergies/dislikes at the time of ordering) so you are automatically taken out of your usual food routine (in our case Chilli, meat & veg, smoked haddock, omelettes). You also then have the cards to keep forever.

I’m looking forward to making the next two recipes and I will definitely be ordering again. You should give it a go, you won’t be disappointed.

Erin, Love from Cornfield… X

Good things come in small packages

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There are few things I like more than good cup of coffee. There’s something in the smell and preparation that remind me of Saturday mornings when I was growing up when my parents enjoyed theirs with Radio 2 playing.

It was therefore with great joy that I jumped at the chance of trying out some Caffe Cagliari samples that Penny told me about. With a history dating back over 100 years, they definitely know a thing or two about coffee!

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The samples arrived in a small but perfectly formed box, and I was excited to find it also included two dinky espresso cups, some Italian biscuits and sweets, as well as some sugar (which Hubby and I don’t personally use).

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Five espresso samples in all, I wanted to try the Crema Espresso and Hubby wanted the Grand Espresso (he likes his coffee to slap him in the face – I prefer something a little smoother!)

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Now these particular capsules are used in a Nespresso machine, one of which we already had. I had thought that only Nespresso capsules could be used in them but these worked perfectly well. Literally two minutes later, our coffees were ready (the spoons in the pictures are my own).

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Richard loved his, although it was gone in a nanosecond (not only does he like his coffee to slap him in the face, he likes a vat of it). Mine however was savoured. Rich, deep flavoured but importantly very smooth, it was delicious. With the sun shining this morning I really felt like I could have been in Italy (sorry about the just-washed undried hair!)

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I would definitely buy Caffe Cagliari again, especially now I know it will go into our Nespresso machine. You could also easily make a really tasty latte using the milk-frother attachment if you don’t like yours short, dark and strong. I whole-heartedly enjoyed my Caffe Cagliari moment! If you’d like your own you can buy the capsules online here with UK shipping only £3.99, or free when you buy 240 capsules.

Erin, Love from Cornfield… X

I was very kindly sent these samples of Caffe Cagliari to review and would not be recommending them to you if I didn’t love them myself

A Healthy January

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Some of you will have seen from my Instagram feed that during January, Rich and I decided to embark on the #Whole30. More for health benefits than anything else it was an eye opening month that has made a lasting impression on how and what we choose to eat.

Rather than go into the whole shebang here, I’ve actually written a guest post for Rebecca over at Florence Finds.

Take a look at how I got on.

Erin, Love from Cornfield… X

Iced Gems

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One of the resounding bits of pleasure throughout the #whole30 has been these little iced gems. Nothing more than grapes, stalks removed, washed and then frozen, they offer that little ‘treat’ after dinner… Especially if its a spicy one.

I prefer Black Grapes when doing this but any can be used. There’s always a couple of pots in our freezer ready to go.

Erin, Love from Cornfield… X

Local Living: Pop Up Restaurant at The Vine King

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I’m a big fan of trying something new, whether that’s a trend, watching a new film, a new place to eat or at the extreme, finding out about a different culture on our travels. It was to my joy then that this new experience happened upon us, and that it was on our doorstep.

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The VineKing in Reigate is a small, independent wine merchant who up until around two years ago only had one shop in Reigate. Situated a the bottom of our Road, it’s our go-to place for trying something different wine-wise. Plus its always handy for that emergency bottle! These are the guys that started to stock a very nice, small range of Red Zinfandels, a wine we both fell in love with after going to the Californian wine country on our Honeymoon.

Erik is a very proactive MD who’s empire is now four shops, two in Reigate, one in Horley and one in Weybridge. Holding many events, the Summer and Christmas tastings are calendar highlights along with a myriad of different events throughout the year. It was a leaflet in-store for this activity though that really caught our eye … A Pop Up Restaurant.

The concept of a Pop Up is not a new one and working in London gives us access to many. However, one on your doorstep, that offers such great value, is not to be missed.

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The Vineking PopUp is chefed by Maxwell Mackenzie, formerly of Marcus Wareing, and I’m literally not joking when I say the food on the night we went is some of the best we’ve eaten, made even better by the fact the facilities he’s cooking on are so limited (its a wine shop, not a kitchen!)

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The premise is that the food that is cooked is then paired with wines that the shop sells – one traditional pairing, and something a little different. At four courses, suffice to say it was a Good job we were walking home!

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The whole evening is such simple genius, its a wonder someone hasn’t done this before (they may have but not to my knowledge) and as its local to us it makes it even more special. At £55 a head including the wine (£35 without), as a date night or something a bit special, its worth the money. We have definitely paid more for lesser meals in the past.

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However, its not just about the food and wine of course. It’s the atmosphere, and the exclusive feeling you get when you are sitting at one of the 24 places in the shop. The pairings are all explained individually by very friendly and knowledgeable staff, and if you don’t like something, you’re given more of what you do like.

I really urge anyone that can spare a weekday evening (only downside due to inevitable hangover after 6+ glasses of wine) to go along. There is a bit of a wait but it will definitely be worth your while.

Erin, Love from Cornfield… X

Alphabet Dating: M – Make a Mini Meal

Recipease Jamie Oliver Clapham

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So inadvertently due to dates and times of Richard’s choice (he in fact was supposed to go first), it was my first Alphabet-Dating “date night” yesterday. I picked “M” out of the bag, and although the usual suspects of Movie and Meal came to mind, I wanted to make sure it was something fun.

Both of us have been to Jamie Oliver’s Recipease before, but not together, and I really wanted to try and book the Mexican Street Food class (killing another M bird in the process) but it was sold out. The North Indian Thali class won – hence Make a Mini Meal. Pretty good for M I thought. Thali means “plate” in Gujarati so a taster of a few dishes was just perfect.

There are three locations where you can do this; Brighton, Notting Hill and Clapham Junction, the latter being the closest to us (a 20 minute train journey) so off we went.

Recipease Clapham

The space itself is wonderful complete with cooking stations, a demo area, and tables to eat your goodies once you’ve made them. I booked a shared class so Richard and I shared a cooking area, but that was fine, since that’s the nature of these dates!

Indian Thali Cooking Class

The class was well run, we learnt something new, and ate some delicious food. What more could you ask from an evening out? The premise behind these Alphabet dates is to spend some time together doing things that you wouldn’t necessarily do, and this was certainly that. We both love cooking, but are very much “safe” in a lot of our choices at home. If it did one thing, it taught us that a really delicious meal can be made relatively quickly. Perhaps we should actually start to use that Jamie 15 Minute Meal book we’ve got!

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I’m not going to give away the recipe’s we learnt here, but I will encourage you to try this afternoon or evening out if you can. It’s really good fun, and the range of things you can cook is fantastic. I’m really keen on the Knife Skills courses, and the Mexican Street Food.

So, a good choice of date for the letter M? Wonder what I’ll pick next!

Erin, Love from Cornfield… X

PS: In writing this, I’ve also noticed that I’ve covered today’s #JanuaryJoy too – bread-making. We made Puri last night, an Indian bread. REALLY easy, such fun to cook, and delicious. YUM. This date also checked off “Cook a Veggie Meal” and “Try Something New”… #JanuaryJoy in abundance!

Getting your Five-a-Day

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I’ve never been a vehement hater of any particular vegetable. When I was little I disliked raw tomatoes but would eat them at friends houses so as not to appear rude. As I’ve got older, raw peppers (or capsicum as I’ve grown up knowing them) are avoided, but that’s pretty much it. I am not what you’d class as a fussy eater.

Being a Vegetarian however has never entered into my psyche. I love meat and sometimes only a Beef Carpaccio or rare Sirloin will satisfy that (Gaucho is unsurprisingly a date-night favourite with us), but we do rarely eat red meat at home (save for the odd Bolognese or Shepard’s Pie). Chicken and Fish feature highly, but as we’ve grown more experimental with our cooking, vegetables do too.

It’s with #januaryjoy therefore that today’s prompt “Have a Veggie Day/Week” comes along. Richard and I are quite good at having meat-free days… thus making sure we get our “five a day” but also to use the contents of our new weekly delivery, thanks to Abel & Cole.

My Mum also, during the summer months, provides us with lots of seasonal goodies from her newly-acquired allotment (she and Dad are under 60 btw) and I love eating these knowing they have been grown from scratch.

Often when it comes to Veg, the simple recipes are the best, letting the flavours you are using shine through. A perennial favourite in our house is this quick and simple pasta dish (one that’s in my memory bank!)

Spaghetti
Olive Oil
Garlic (as much as you can bear)
Red Chilli (ditto above)
Asparagus
Parmesan

1. Cook the spaghetti according to pack instructions
2. In a (heavy based if you have) pan, add a good glug of olive oil and heat.
3. Add the garlic (chopped) and Red Chilli (finely chopped) and sauté, being careful not to burn.
4. Add the Asparagus (part steamed, using a microwave is easiest) chopped into chunks (I like to use the bigger asparagus for this receipe) and cook until hot.
5. Add the whole lot to the cooked spaghetti and toss.
6. Serve in bowls with a good grating of Parmesan.

Absolutely delicious and so quick.

Cooking veg needn’t be a chore. Visit your local farmers market if you can and always cook what’s in season to keep the costs down, plus you know you are getting the particular veg you are using at its best.

Could you introduce a veggie day/week into your food calendars? It’s easier than you think!

Erin, Love from Cornfield… X