Friday, 13 February 2015

The Fifty Shades of Grey Film - What a ride!

It felt like we'd been waiting to see it for ages, and here it finally was, Fifty Shades of Grey on the big screen.

There was a loud and audible moan of disappointment when the film ended, due to frustration of being in the story and having it end rather than because it was bad. I think that's an excellent indicator overall of the reception of the very large crowd that saw the film this evening at Vue Lakeside.

It was hot, no question. I'd be happy to have more hotness but it certainly wasn't a cop out, it was a good snapshot of the book - like all these things you never get ever aspect of a book in the film. There just isn't time, as it was I think the running time was about 2 pretty engrossing hours.

The two actors did a good job. From the first trailer I'd thought that Dakota Johnson might have not been able to carry it off but she was a really convincing Anastasia. The 12 year old immature sniggers from the audience were irritating in places (people, it's just sex). It was (intentionally) laugh out loud in several places and made me rethink aspects of the story and want to read it again. It reinforced the fact that whilst the book is an erotic novel, there's plenty of story in there, of emotion and depth, pain, discovery and a whole host of other layers. It's not just about the shagging.

Fifty shades is not a catastrophe as some reviews have described it, I liked it. I'd not claim it as great and worthy cinema but I really enjoyed it, I'd see it again - actually not would, definitely will, and I'm looking forward to the blu(e) ray release. One gripe - again the double standard on nudity, female nudity is still seen as much more acceptable than male, hopefully this will change in 2 and 3. Sorry Jamie but we want to see your man parts, we really, really do.

It follows the structure of the books so far, so this film ends where book 1 does (hence the ooooohhhs) - hopefully that's not too much of a spoiler. Now off to google what's been said about the next two. And have a suspiciously early night.

PS Jamie Dornans bottom is AWESOME. Seriously lickable.

PPS I don't recommend you watch it with your Mum.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Eating Gluten Free in Prague

I'm just back from a three night stay in Prague, it's a beautiful city and I can't recommend it enough for a city break.  Eastern European food though is notorious for being wheat based, with lots of dumplings, wheat thickened stews etc. so I did plenty of research before we went and found some real gems.  It's worth taking some basic snacks though if you want to hang out in traditional Czech cafes.

Gluten free is clearly extending out across Europe, I didn't find it particularly hard to eat out whilst there, well, no harder than it is anywhere new.

Firstly, the hotel we stayed in - The Best Western Majestic Plaza offered me GF rolls and cornflakes with the breakfast that was included in our stay.  They advised which dishes on the buffet were safe and when the mushrooms weren't one day due to a sauce they were in, they offered and made me a fresh, safe dish of them of my own.  They had a really wide selection of stuff, cheeses, sliced sausage, eggs, bacon, fruit, yoghurts.  It was excellent.  They also tailored meals in their restaurant to suit, and I had a bar snack of baked Camembert with GF bread for dipping.

If, like me, you go to a country and want to try regional dishes, Svejk U Karla restaurant has a full menu of things that you wouldn't normally get, like dumplings, pancakes, apple strudels, the menu was extensive and the prices very reasonable.  It's the only 'normal' restaurant I've ever been to where the first menu I was offered without asking was the gluten free one.  The potato dumplings were fantastic.

I came across two bakeries that had big, gluten free crossed grain signs in the window and Bez Lepku (Gluten Free) clearly displayed.  One is on the Old Town Square and is called Pekarstvi v Dusni.  I found part baked bread, biscuits, muffins and cake there.  The prices again were a lot less than we pay here (two muffins, some biscuits and two part baked seeded baguettes was about £3.50).  The second is Libeřské lahůdky at 9 Vodickova, nearish to Wencleslas Square.  I just saw the sign in the window and didn't have time to go in so can't report on what they had for sale.

Our first lunch, at the recommendation of a friend, was at The Bake Shop. It's an upscale deli selling soup, sandwiches, salads and cakes.  They were able to do a salad for me with GF bread.  I didn't sample any of the biscuits, they were alongside lots of other 'normal' stuff and I didn't want to risk it.

I didn't see any GF products in Starbucks unfortunately.  There are plenty of McDonalds around though if you get caught out.

Other places that offer GF menus below, I haven't tried any of these places myself.

Hotel U Prince - this is on the Old Town Square
Cafe Imperial
Little Whale - looks more expensive than many Prague Restaurants
Pizza Coloseum - GF pizza bases and pasta
Triton Restaurant - on Wencleslas Square with an amazing looking cave stalactite ceiling

Another bakery -
Diana Svet Oríšku at Vocelova 606, Praha 2 and other locations - fresh gluten free bread on a Monday

Hope that helps you, and do visit Prague, it's a beautiful city stuffed full of amazing architecture and history.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Christmas recipes

Well now that the dust has settled I wanted to do a post of the recipes and things I made over the festive period so I can remember for next year.

Firstly, cranberry sauce.  Yes, you can buy this and there are some lovely ones but I love it and it's so easy to make and just so much better than shop bought stuff.  Even my brother waxes lyrical about this and he doesn't do waxing.  You know what I mean.

Cranberry Lushness
200g cranberries
170g sugar (caster or granulated)
Juice and zest of one clementine or satsuma

Juice the clementine into a jug, and top up the liquid to 2oz with port.  Then add in 2oz of water.
Add that mix to the cranberries along with the sugar and zest in a saucepan.
Bring to a rolling boil and cook for approximately 5 mins, you'll know when the mixture becomes thick and syrupy, some of the cranberries will still be whole but most should be a delicious, jammy mush.
Allow to cool and store in the fridge.

I did turkey and ham, with the following glaze which I will be making again it was fantastic, both on the ham and drizzled over when cold.

Morello Cherry Glaze

1 jar of morello cherry conserve (not jam, you want one with a high fruit content)
1 tspn heaped of mixed spice
2 tblsps dark muscovado

Mix the ingredients and warm in a saucepan until they are well combined.
Cook your ham as per the instructions/your preference.
30 mins before the end of cooking removed the skin and as much or little fat from the ham as you wish
Pour over glaze coating the ham well, but don't use all of it just enough to provide cover.
Put in the oven for 15 mins at 180c for a fan oven, 200c for a non fan version.
Remove and pour over more glaze, return for another 15 mins.

Serve hot or cold with remaining glaze.

I'll post some more stuff but those two were the ones I really wanted to set down for future use.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

The middle bit before the storm

I've not blogged much after a few weeks of social busyness.

I had my lovely friend Alan to stay, and cooked him shredded lamb shoulder in redcurrant and mint jus.  Normally it's a dish I do with lamb shanks but since they've become fashionable they're really expensive, with two coming in at over £10.  Shoulder is a much cheaper option (a less than £8 joint easily feeding 5) and works extremely well cooked over shallots, carrots in a very low oven or slow cooker.  We're talking about 6 hours here, until it falls apart when you stick a fork in it.

The added benefit of this is once the meat is stripped from the bones, you can reduce the cooking sauces (containing mint sauce and redcurrant jelly) and have a delicious jus, which you can put the meat back into.  At this point it can happily sit in the fridge and just needs warming through when you need it.  It also freezes well (I had some this evening with rapid roastini and cauliflower).

We had some lovely drives out, including discovering a lovely beach in Shoeburyness where people were walking their dogs.

The halloween party was good, though exhausting.  I was pleased with how it turned out and I made meatball eyeballs (went down very well), pumpkin cheese scones, cocktail sausages with a honey mustard dip, coffin chocolate cake, cheesecake dip with bagel chips, brazillian cheese balls, M&S party snack skewery things and nuts and crisps.  There was some left over which meant that I didn't have to cook for a few days and I was very grateful for that.

Yesterday we took a trip out to Polhill Garden Centre at Badgers Mount.  I was pleased to see they'd got some gluten free snacks this time in the cafe, last time they had nothing suitable.  Lovely christmas displays finished off with a Toby Carvery with parsnips!  Wahey!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Busy busy busy! Oh and universe, you're not funny right?

I'm having one of those - getting some nasty outstanding jobs done - sessions.  Things that you've looked at a hundred times and thought, I must find/clean/fix/chuck that.

Finally bought a new cleaning disk for the Tassimo machine, which has been sitting unused on my work surface for probably about a year after conceding defeat in looking for mine.  Which I put somewhere sensible.  I remember doing it.  Where that sensible place is eludes me though.  It's now cleaned out, wiped, dried and fully functioning and I've just had a latte.

Provocraft kindly provided me, for free, with a replacement power cable for my Cricut.  Which again hasn't been used in a long, long, long time.  Two days later, I found the original.  It was in amongst other cables that I'd looked at and somehow missed.  Then, after much digging, I found the data cable for it.  Then Sure Cuts a Lot sent me my serial number for the software again.  Something else I'm sure I stored somewhere safe.  This time I'm sticking the serial on a label on the Cricut itself.  I'm now almost ready to cut halloweeny things for the bunting I'm making.  It feels like it's been a real marathon to get to this point.

Sold my other Christmas tree - it was lovely but so huge it was too big for my house, and sorted a couple more boxes of stuff from the garage after the lovely Phil did some sorting and spider wrangling for me.

Made some choc chip almond and oatmeal cookies based on this recipe substituting almond butter instead of peanut and throwing in a handful of oatmeal and chocolate chips.  I guess that makes it a completely different recipe now?

And joy of joys, my new Chest Freezer was delivered on Sunday morning, installed and working and now holding some of my second tier food.  That's the stuff that is either not every day food (joints of meat for example), and stock items, like packets of frozen mince bought on offer.  I keep one of those in my kitchen freezer.  Left over mash became tattie scones.  Please excuse the yellowness in the picture, they're not that colour in real life but they are delish!

Will write up a review of Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium visit soon.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Mint sugar

I do like making foodie gifts for people at Christmas and this year, as well as Nigella's Chocolate Pistachio Fudge I'll be doing The Pioneer Woman's Mint Truffles.  I love mint chocolates but there's always a few types in a mixed box I'm not keen on.  And usually mint choc is dark chocolate, not my favourite.  So making my own is the perfect solution.

In her recipe, Ree tops them off with green sugar for crunch and aesthetics, so I decided to make my own and make it mint flavoured.

The process of making coloured and or flavoured sugar couldn't be easier.  Take your sugar, in this instance I used granulated but if you want a bigger crystal, demerera is good.  Put it in a bag, add a few drops of colour or essence, close the bag and squish and knead it through.  Keep adding the colour or flavour until you get the result you want and allow it to dry.

It's great for topping your baking, but this mint version is nice in hot chocolate too.  You could do lemon to add to tea or decorate a lemon drizzle cake.  Or vanilla for, well, anything!

Thursday, 2 October 2014

The productive chicken

On Monday I roasted a whole chicken.  Whole chicken is by far the cheapest way to buy chicken meat and gives you all sorts of options and variety of things to do with it.

So Monday night I had warm chicken and bacon salad.
Tuesday was cold chicken with rapid roastini, spinach and pine nuts
Wednesday was chicken and mushrooms in a cream sauce with gnocchi
And tonight, the final outing was another salad this time with mango and chilli and it was lush.

There are some bits left over and the cats are getting those as a treat.  The intial bird cost £2.50 from Ocado and has given four main meals and extra bits.  Not bad!  So next time you singletons are out and about doing the weekly shop, and pass up the humble chicky as being a 'family' thing, consider all the lovely meals you can make with that one bird, and how different they can be.