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Friday, 22 August 2014

Savvy savings for dinner party devotees

Perhaps you have an especially large dining room, a fascinating taxidermy collection or just happen to adore throwing an evening soiree - even if the evening in question happens to be a Tuesday. If you’re especially magnanimous with your dinner party invites, and your house has become flavour of the month, the cost of keeping your guests well lubricated can soon mount up!

Here are some sneaky tips for wining and dining your friendship circle, without causing disappointment and dismay to your bank manager.

Buy your wine in bulk

Not only will you develop an impressive wine cellar (okay, shed), but buying wine by the case online usually gives you the option to find products you may not be able to pick up in store, thus saving you heaps.

Another benefit of wine delivery in the UK is that you have that case of Chenin Blanc delivered to your door, freeing up your hands for tossing scallops on the griddle, kneading dough and perfecting your origami napkin swans.

Fill your freezer

Okay, so it’s not strictly fresh, but what your guests don’t know won’t hurt them. Some recipes emerge unhurt from the freezer, as fresh as the day your fair hands gave them life. Foods in this category include soups, stews (especially a hearty bourguignon) and frozen desserts.

Obviously remember: if it’s home-made, it’s definitely not cheating! This will allow you to buy meat, vegetables and seasonal ingredients in bulk. Seafood like langoustines, lobster and crab are also a good option for freezing - In fact most chefs tend to cook from frozen. Don't feel pressured to do otherwise.

Buy seasonal

Any credible restaurant worth its weight in salt offers a seasonal specials board, so stocking up on locally-sourced produce that’s widely available is a spend-thrifty way to offer a bright, bold menu which uses ingredients that are at their best. This is a particularly useful technique to deploy with vegetables, game and fruits, and it also gives you some cues when structuring a menu plan.
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Cook cheap cuts, longer

Look at buying that expensive tenderloin as the easy way out, and instead, use technique to conjure up taste. Switch pork belly for loin, beef brisket for topside, chicken thigh for chicken breast. Yes, these require a little more preparation, but often the tastiest cuts are, in fact, the cheapest!  

Dinner parties are all about getting together with your friends, loved ones and colleagues and having a good time, so don’t pressure yourself to produce an endless and pretentious collection of avant-garde masterpieces. Homely, comforting food is so much more relaxing than panicked, precision gourmet. Relax, enjoy yourself, and your dinner party guests will do the same!

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Thursday, 21 August 2014

Cooking in the Wild in Cannock Chase

We are very lucky to have Cannock Chase on our doorstep. There are miles and miles of open space and woodland and we love to go there for a bit of an adventure as it's one of the very few places to go that all three children enjoy together.

I packed a bag with bacon, wraps, biscuits, marshmallows, chocolate, hot chocolate and coffee. We located the gas stove and den kit in the garage and off we went.

One we'd found our ideal spot in an open space, we set up our camp, stringing rope between two trees and pegging down our camo tarp over it. We threw the picnic blanket underneath and made a porchway out of another smaller tarp, and I used a carrier bag to sit on and cook.
Cooking in the Wild in Cannock Chase #weloveforests Cooking in the Wild in Cannock Chase #weloveforests

The kids had a great time building a den out of sticks and fern and loved their bacon wrap and s'mores. We'll definitely be doing a lot more cooking in the outdoors as food seems to taste so much better this way - albeit with an odd leaf here and there.

Homebase #grillfie Competition - WIN £300 Homebase vouchers

I love cooking on the barbecue, and for me it doesn't just have to be something that's done in the summer months. We have a gas bbq and it gets used all year round, as I much prefer the taste of barbecued meat to grilled or fried. It also has the added benefits of reducing the washing up and leaving the cooking smells outside, rather than lingering around your home.

Here are a few of my favourite bbq meals :

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bbq ribs
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bbq spicy pork shoulder steaks
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bbq burgers

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bbq sausages
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cookies - yes, cookies on the bbq!

If you have a bbq to be proud of then why not take a #grillfie and enter the Homebase competition to be in with a chance of winning £300 Homebase vouchers. Here's what you need to do.

1. Take a #grillfie (image of you with your BBQ or of your BBQ/food)
2. Tweet this to @homebase_uk with the hashtag #grillfie
3. See your image appear on the #grillfie Homebase wall      

Then complete the details in the Rafflecopter form below.

Here's my wonderful #grillfie - just me, my pout, my tongs & my Outback on a typically British wet & sunny day in the garden.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Bacon, Lettuce & Crisp Sarnie #crispsarnieweek

You've heard of the BLT so now let me introduce you to the BLC - the ultimate in crisp sandwiches, the Bacon, Lettuce and Crisp sarnie.

This version is not actually a sandwich, it is the much improved Tiger Roll model, and everything about it is crisp - crisp tiger bread roll, crisp smoked bacon, crisp green lettuce and crisp Seabrook Canadian Ham crinkle cut crisps. It's a crisp sandwich through and through.

Bacon, Lettuce & Crisp Sarnie #crispsarnieweek Bacon, Lettuce & Crisp Sarnie #crispsarnieweek Bacon, Lettuce & Crisp Sarnie #crispsarnieweek

It looks good and tastes AMAZING!


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