Category Archives: Food

Judging the International Cheese Awards 2017

Each July thousands of cheese producers and retailers from across the world descend on the sleepy market town of Nantwich in Cheshire to take part in the International Cheese Awards. The awards are part of the Nantwich Show, but trade day and judging takes place the day before the gates are opened to the public. I’ve been going for four years now, and judging for the last three. It is the highlight of my foodie calendar, but what did I judge at the International Cheese Awards 2017 and who won?

Judging the International Cheese Awards 2017

The judging day starts early, but there’s plenty of coffee and lots of really interesting people to talk to. I arrived early, just as they were opening up the cheese pavilion and was first in line to collect my judging pack. Taking the chance, I had a quick wander around to have a look at some of the 5685 entries and then settled down for a coffee. I found myself sat next to Jill Allen from the The Tillamook County Creamery Association in Oregon. Jill is lovely and we had a good chat about cheese (what else?) and her plans to visit the Cheddar Gorge before she goes home to America.

The judges were briefed and we made our way to the judging tables. I was in a judging team with retired cheese maker David Slater and Sarah De Wit, Product Development Manager for ASDA. Both were very knowledgeable and I like to take the opportunity to learn what I can about cheese from my fellow judges.

We judged the following categories – 
DP54 – Derby Block, UK Creameries – Winner Belton Farm
DP55 – Red Leicester Block, UK Creameries – Winner Belton Farm
DP389 – Packaged Fresh Cheese Snacks – Winner AB Zemaitijos Plenas 24 month aged solid fermented cheese chunks

Judging the International Cheese Awards 2017

Between the three categories judged we sampled 41 different cheeses, which was not a record breaker, but still a fair amount of cheese to eat in one sitting. Judging over, I retired to the press tent for a sit down and a cup of tea and to compare notes with some of my fellow press judges. We just had time for a quick look around some of the trade stands in the cheese pavilion before lunch. And yes, we did eat some more cheese.

Judging the International Cheese Awards 2017

Lunch at the International Cheese Awards is always a treat. After a feast of cheese, the lunch of excellent salads, thick slices of beef, ham, poached salmon or veggie quiche is very welcome. Pudding at an event which celebrates all things dairy is as cream-filled as you’d expect; with sherry trifle, excellent pavlova, chocolate roulade and a huge dish of fresh strawberries. It’s hard to know what to choose (so it’s best to have a little of each). You should save a little room for the best cheese board you will find anywhere in the world, this is the International Cheese Awards after all.

After lunch, the winners of the retail classes were announced, along with the International Cheese Awards 2017 Supreme Champion, which was the Roquefort Papillon Révélation from Bradburys Cheese. It’s available from Waitrose if you fancy tracking down this wonderful blue cheese.

Judging the International Cheese Awards 2017

It was a wonderful year for the International Cheese Awards 2017. Each year I discover some new cheeses and learn more about cheese tasting. I love it. I know being a cheese judge is something of an honor bestowed on the few and that I was in incredibly knowledgeable and gracious company, for which I am grateful.

This year was the 120th anniversary of the International Cheese Awards. Today (26th July 2017) the doors are open to the public; complete with cookery demonstrations from celebrity chefs including James Martin, Sean Wilson and Will Holland. If you can’t make it to the cheese pavilion this year, then put it in your diary for next year. It’s an unmissable event for cheese lovers and food enthusiasts!

For more information about the International Cheese Awards 2017, visit their website.

Review: Afternoon Tea at Cocoa Cabana, West Didsbury

A couple of weeks ago to celebrate two friends getting new jobs, a group of us went for afternoon tea at Cocoa Cabana in West Didsbury. To my shame I’ve never eaten there before, but I’ve bought and eaten plenty of their chocolates over the years. I was interested to see what their chocolate afternoon tea would be like, plus it seemed like a bargain at £16.99 each, so I needed to check it out properly. 

Review: Afternoon Tea at Cocoa Cabana, West Didsbury

Cocoa Cabana in West Didsbury is a small chocolatiers and cake makers. They have three small tables inside and on nice days you can sit outside on Burton Road and watch the world go by. There were eight of us, so we took up all of the inside tables. Because of the size of Cocoa Cabana and the work involved in making an afternoon tea you do have to book in advance. 

My friend Sarah had done all the booking and had arranged for us to take some celebratory prosecco with us to have with our tea. There was rather surprisingly no corkage to pay for this. The afternoon tea comes with unlimited tea or coffee, you can have hot chocolate but there is an additional charge for this.

Review: Afternoon Tea at Cocoa Cabana, West Didsbury

We were served pots of good tea and we chatted as our sandwiches were brought to us. I was one of two vegetarians and our sandwiches were brought on separate plates. I thought that was a nice touch as the carnivores often snaffle the veggie sandwiches before I get to them. The sandwiches were freshly made with seeded bread and good quality fillings. There were nice egg sandwiches, cheese and pickle and ham and mustard amongst others.

More tea was poured, prosecco corks popped and a procession of sweet treats were brought to our table. The freshly made fruit scones came with lashings of cream and a salted caramel sauce; a real twist on the classic but one I really enjoyed. It was a little sweet for a couple of my friends, but the sauce was a winner for me.

Review: Afternoon Tea at Cocoa Cabana, West Didsbury

The chocolate tarts were much coveted. Crisp pastry filled with chocolate ganache and topped with a red berry. The tarts were excellent, but very rich and very intense. Most of us managed half a tart each (you can take what you can’t finish home if you’d like).

Following the chocolate theme, there was also a large plate of chocolate brownies. I am not much of a brownie fan, but I shared one with a friend and it was perfectly crisp on top and gooey in the middle. 

What did turn my head was this little plate of prettiness. Tiny eclairs, a teeny banoffee pie, a bite-sized cheesecake, little raspberry chocolate pots, a miniature lemon meringue tart and the lightest, most magnificent pistachio macaron ever.

Review: Afternoon Tea at Cocoa Cabana, West Didsbury

As with every afternoon tea I’ve ever had, there was far too much food, which is probably a good thing. Afternoon tea should not leave you wanting more and the staff at Cocoa Cabana were clearly used to boxing up leftovers. 

The Afternoon Tea at Cocoa Cabana is just £16.99 per person, which is really excellent value. We didn’t feel rushed and the service was attentive but not intrusive. I did need to go home and have a nap directly afterwards, but that is my greed and not a comment on the quality of the food. I liked the separate veggie sandwiches; and the macarons I will dream of for a while yet. I do think the salted caramel sauce should be sold in jars.

The verdict? A good afternoon tea, with some real highlights at very reasonable price, I’ve paid upwards of £25 in Manchester for very average afternoon teas and the Cocoa Cabana afternoon tea was better value and much better quality. Plus the service was accommodating and attentive. It’s nice to have afternoon tea (and chocolate) of this quality available outside of the city centre. Go on, treat yourself (and me).

Cocoa Cabana 128 Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester, M20 2JQ

Visit the Cocoa Cabana website for further information

Review: Afternoon Tea at Cocoa Cabana, West Didsbury

Note: We paid for our Afternoon Tea in full.

Days Out: Foodies Festival 2017, Tatton Park

As a keen eater of food, I can think of few things more exciting than going to a food festival, particularly a food festival on a glorious July weekend in the grounds of one of the great Cheshire estates – Tatton Park. We had VIP tickets for the day, so on Sunday we made the short trip from Didsbury to Knutsford to enjoy the Foodies Festival 2017.

Days Out: Foodies Festival 2017 at Tatton Park, Cheshire

If you’ve never been to the Foodies Festival before, it’s a bit like a giant farmers market, with lots of street food stalls and beer tents as well as little stalls selling kitchenalia and other foodie items. They also have some marquees where you can book to see various demonstrations, kids cookery, wine tasting and yoga if you’re so inclined.

The Foodies Festival does an annual summer tour around the UK, but sets up camp in Cheshire each July. It’s a real celebration of global food with stands and stalls from all over the world, plus local UK producers keenly selling their wares.

Days Out: Foodies Festival 2017 at Tatton Park, Cheshire

It is and it isn’t a family event. Both times we have been we have taken the boy and he’s quite liked it, mainly because he gets ice cream and a good hour in the excellent adventure playground afterwards. I guess being dragged around a busy festival while your parents swig samples of gin and nibble excellent cheese doesn’t really do it for most six year olds. Which is why booking tickets for one of the kids cookery demos would have been sensible idea had we thought of it earlier.

Days Out: Foodies Festival 2017 at Tatton Park, Cheshire

I’m reliably informed that Friday is the day to go to avoid the crowds, Sunday was busy but we picked our queues carefully and tried our best not to be too greedy. Between us we ate some delicious dishes; nibbling Spanish cheeses and meats, Paella, Calamari and er, chips and garlic mayo. We found homemade cakes and bags of fudge for pudding. Along the way sipped prosecco, mateus rose (it’s still a no from me), gin samples, raspberry juice and a lovely gin cocktail.

If you enjoy good food and discovering new and interesting things then the Foodie Festival is for you. It is busy, especially on the weekend days and the tickets are not so cheap that you’d just pop in for a quick bite for your lunch (VIP tickets are £35 each). With an additional £6 to park your car at Tatton Park, the costs of the day soon mount up.

Next time I think I will find a foodie friend to go with, rather than take the boys. That way I can explore things at my own pace. It’s certainly the place to go with a picnic blanket to sit on in the sunshine; listening to the live music and getting pink-cheeked merry on pimms or prosecco from the Bus Bar. 

Days Out: Foodies Festival 2017 at Tatton Park, Cheshire

Click here for more information about the Foodies Festival 2017.

Note: I was given a pair of tickets to the Foodies Festival 2017 in return for this blog post. All images and opinions are my own.

Five brand name bargains from Approved Food

Last week I ordered a giant box of food from Approved Food – the online discount food retailer who sell food near or slightly past their best before date. I bagged some tremendous brand name bargains, spending just £38.32 including delivery on a shop which would have cost me £93.67 in a supermarket, saving me a whopping £55.35!

Approved Food sell short dated food that brands and supermarkets won’t be able to sell in time, so their stock varies from day to day. What you find on their website today might not be available tomorrow, so it pays to be flexible about brand names and what you want to buy. 

Just to give you a flavour of some of the brilliant bargains I discovered on my last Approved Food shop, I’ve picked out five of the best bargains from my latest order (delivered on 23rd June 2017).

Five brand name bargains from Approved Food

1p Box of Maltesers

This was the bargain of the day, Approved Food usually highlight great bargains on their front page and it was impossible not to slip a 1p box of Maltesers into my shopping basket. The usual price for this box would be £2 in your local supermarket, so this was a massive saving and a nice treat for me.

10 Cans of Pepsi Light for £2

I’m a Diet Coke girl, but I do love a bargain. 10 cans of Pepsi Light for £2 was too good a price to pass up. These full sized cans would have cost me £6 anywhere else, but now they’re chilling in my fridge and I’m happy to give my usual brand a swerve to take advantage of this good price.

Seeds of Change Pasta Sauce, 2 for £1.50

I don’t normally buy jars of pasta sauce, but it’s sometimes nice to have a couple in the cupboard for a no fuss meal in a hurry. These Seeds of Change organic tomato and basil pasta sauces should have cost me £3.44, but were available for £1.50 for two. 

Knorr Vegetable Stock Cubes, 2 packs for £1

Stock cubes are a store cupboard essential for me. I cook from scratch a lot and go through packets and packets of stock cubes, so these bargain brand named stock cubes were a no brainer. Two packets for £1 when they should be £1.50 per packet make these a brilliant bargain.

Hellmanns Light Mayonnaise, 2 for £1.50

Mayonnaise is the favoured sauce in our house, so we go through quite a lot of it. We also tend to be a bit brand name fussy when it comes to mayo, so when I spotted Hellmanns Light Mayonnaise (432g) at 2 for £1.50 they went straight in my basket. Full price they would have cost me £3, so that’s a great saving for us.

Birds Instant Custard, 3 for 99p

I always like to have a few packets of instant custard in the cupboard for cake and custard emergencies (or which we have many). These Birds low fat instant custard packets would have cost £2.04 in a supermarket, but we’ve saved £1.05 and we’re stocked up ready for our next dessert emergency.

Five brand name bargains from Approved Food

Every time you shop at Approved Food you find new and different bargains including brand names and supermarket own brands. I’ve been on their website this morning and they’re got lots of new products at incredibly tempting prices. Plus they’ve got discount codes for delivery which makes it very hard to resist placing another order.

What’s the best brand name bargain you’ve had from Approved Food?

Read my review of Approved Food here.

How to slash your shopping bill with Approved Food

I often write reviews and write ups of new products and services on my blog, things we’ve never tried before, but today I want to share with you my experiences with Approved Food, a company we have been shopping with for years.

Approved Food  are a discount online company selling products that are near or just past their best before date. Everything they sell is fit to eat and is really cheap, with most of their products being sold at around 70% less than you’d find them in the shops. I discovered Approved Food several years ago on the Money Saving Expert forums and I’ve been putting in regular orders ever since.

Slashing your shopping bill with Approved Food

When we shop at Approved Food we tend to use it to stock up on store cupboard ingredients and we tend to buy in bulk, because it’s often cheaper that way. Last week they gave me £30 credit to spend in return for this blog post, so I logged into my account and went on a spree. You can get an awful lot of food for £30 at Approved Food.

Like with any shop, it’s best to have a shopping list before you start. They probably won’t have everything you want in stock, but if you have an idea of what you need then that’s a good start. My store cupboard wish list was fairly standard. Pasta, tinned tomatoes, baked beans, some things for quick puddings, kitchen towel, soups, noodles, mayonnaise, sweet chilli sauce and so on. I always make sure I add a sweet treat to my basket, because I know once I’ve unpacked and everything put away I will deserve a little something with my cup of tea.

The Approved Food website is really easy to use, it’s just like any online shop really, and the food is all neatly categorised – baking, breakfast, pasta and noodles etc. Their newest products and biggest bargains are usually highlighted on their homepage. On the day I did my shop you could buy a 120g box of Maltesers for 1p, so I did. 

Because Approved Food stock short dated food that brands and supermarkets won’t be able to sell in time, their stock varies from day to day. So if you’ve bought something one week and loved it, you might not be able to find it again on Approved Food for a little while. You’ll also find lots of your favourite brands and supermarket own brands in stock. You’ll see from my shopping list I’ve got Birds Custard, Branston Baked Beans, Hellmanns Mayonnaise, Knorr stock cubes, Napolina Pasta, Pepsi light, Seeds of Change organic pasta sauce, Whitworths figs and of course my bargain box of Maltesers. 

Slashing your shopping bill with Approved Food

Approved Food often label supermarket own brands they stock as “Perfectly Good Golden Breadcrumbs” for example. When I unpacked the box I’ve discovered they are actually Sainsbury’s own brand breadcrumbs at half the price I paid for them in the shop. Fantastic.

Slashing your shopping bill with Approved Food

I spent £38.32 including delivery and if I’d paid full price for my products in a supermarket it would have cost me £93.67, saving me £55.35.

Delivery was £4.99. I often balk at delivery prices, but this is about what I’d pay to have a supermarket deliver my weekly shop. It is well packed, all the glass jars are wrapped in bubble-wrap and the big box contains several smaller boxes where the products are neatly packed and stacked. My Approved Food shop usually arrives in better condition than my weekly supermarket shop. 

Slashing your shopping bill with Approved Food

If you want to stock up your store cupboard at a fraction of the cost of what you’d spend, even if you normally shop in a discount supermarket like Aldi, Approved Food is well worth a look. Stocking up my pantry on the cheap has got us through some tough financial times over the last seven years or so and as a result I’m very fond of Approved Food and recommend it (both on here and in real life) to anyone who likes saving money and eating well.

Visit the Approved Food website to see what bargains you can find.

I was given £30 credit to spend at Approved Food in return for this blog post. All images and opinions are my own. 

How to slash your shopping bill with Approved Food

Giveaway & Review: New Blue Dragon Frozen Ready Meals

Although I like to cook from scratch as much as I can, there are times when I just want a night off and we treat ourselves to a ready meal. I’ve had some truly dreadful ready meals over the years, but I’ve also had some very good ones. We like to keep a couple of decent ones in the freezer for when I want a night off from the kitchen. We were asked to put the new range of Blue Dragon Frozen Ready Meals to the test, so what did we think?

Giveaway & Review: New Blue Dragon Frozen Ready Meals

My favourite take away is Chinese and I regularly cook Chinese style dishes or a stir fry at home. Blue Dragon is a brand name I recognise and I have several of their sauces and packets of noodles in my cupboard. We were sent the following Blue Dragon frozen ready meals to try out –

  • Chicken Chow Mein with egg noodles
  • Sweet Chilli Chicken with egg noodles
  • Chicken in Black Bean Sauce with egg fried rice
  • Sweet & Sour Chicken with egg fried rice

Giveaway & Review: New Blue Dragon Frozen Ready Meals

The new Blue Dragon frozen ready meals come in colourful packaging with a fairly good representation of what the dish looks like on the cardboard cover. The microwave cooking time for the dishes varies, but it takes less than ten minutes to cook and serve the frozen ready meal. 

The meals are easy to heat up and the chicken is in a separate compartment to the rice or noodles. The noodles stand up slightly better to being frozen and reheated, as the rice was a little on the sticky side. We are very much a noodles instead of household, so that might sway our judgement.

Giveaway & Review: New Blue Dragon Frozen Ready Meals

The sauces appear to be the same Blue Dragon sauces that you’d buy in pouches to make your own meals from scratch, so they tasted quite delicious. There was plenty of sauce in each portion too, they were not skimpy with the sauce. 

My first thought was, if you don’t like chicken you’re out of luck with these meals. Luckily my husband and son love chicken, and each meal had lots of nice chunky pieces of chicken and vegetables in them.

The meals are quite a good size and were enough to fill my two hungry boys after a long day at work and school. The meals were tasty and were popular enough for me to want to buy some more for lazy days. The boys favoured the meals with noodles as the texture of the rice was a bit sticky for their tastes.

A ready meal is never going to compare well with your favourite Chinese takeaway, but these Blue Dragon frozen ready meals are a decent approximation of what you might make at home. It would be nice to see more options than just chicken, it would be even nicer to see some vegetarian meals in this range, so we can all eat something similar together as a family.

Blue Dragon frozen ready meals are currently available for £2 from Tesco. 

Giveaway & Review: New Blue Dragon Frozen Ready Meals

WIN a family feast from blue dragon

To be in with a chance to win four assorted Blue Dragon frozen ready meals, simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Check out our other giveaways over on our competitions page.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:
1. The competition is open to residents of the UK only aged (18) and over.
2. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
3. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget above, complete any mandatory entries and any optional entries you would like.
4. The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.
5. The winner will be sent four assorted Blue Dragon frozen ready meals.
6. The closing date for entries is 11.59pm GMT on 16th July 2017.
7. The winner will be informed by email within 7 days of the closing date.
8. The winner will be asked to provide a full UK postal address with postcode for delivery purposes.
9. The winners name will be available on request
10. Address details will be passed onto an agency to post the prize out to the winner, and is therefore beyond my control. I cannot be held responsible for prizes being lost in the post although I will endeavour to liaise with the agency.
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12. Entry to this giveaway confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.
13. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this giveaway.

Preview: The International Cheese Awards 2017

On Tuesday 25th and Wednesday 26th July this year the good people of Nantwich in Cheshire will be bracing themselves for a celebration of all things dairy (but mainly cheese) as the 120th International Cheese Awards 2017 rolls into town for their annual cheese extravaganza – held in tandem with the Nantwich Agricultural Show.

Preview: The International Cheese Awards 2017 + WIN Tickets!

Tuesday 25th  is Trade and Judging day, but on Wednesday 26th the enormous cheese pavilion is open to the public. Browse and buy cheese direct from the makers, find out more about the dairy industry, sample some of the thousands of cheeses there or spot a famous face and join one of the celebrity chefs in the demo kitchen.

Preview: The International Cheese Awards 2017 + WIN Tickets!

Tickets for the demo kitchen sessions are limited, so if you’re heading off to the show then don’t forget to book before you go. Watch top chefs James Martin, Will Holland, Sean Wilson and Jonathan Harrison demonstrate their skills in the kitchen and learn how impress and delight your guests with some delicious cheese based cookery!

Last year’s International Cheese Awards attracted an amazing 5000 entries, making the International Cheese Awards the biggest and best cheese show in the world. Last year’s Supreme Champion and winner of the Westminster Cup 2016 was Treur Kaas for their aged Jerseyhoeve Schorren, with Waitrose scooping Supreme Retailer for 2016. Which cheese will come out top this year?

Preview: The International Cheese Awards 2017 + WIN Tickets!

The International Cheese Awards is a fantastic day out. The Nantwich Agricultural Show and the International Cheese Awards are a great way to spend a day out with the family at the start of the summer holidays. I go every year, and for the last few years I have been a cheese judge, which is the most fun ever!

For more information about the International Cheese Awards and to buy tickets to the awards and the Nantwich Show, visit their website.

Review: Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauce

With barbecue season in full swing, I was sent a selection of Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauce to sample. I confess that barbecue sauce is one of my favourite condiments and I often have a dollop with my chips, or on a veggie burger. 

I was sent the following sauces to try out:

  • Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauce – Smooth Original
  • Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauce – Full Flavor Smokey
  • Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Glaze – Smokey Sweet
  • Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Glaze – Tennessee Honey Barbecue Glaze

Review: Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauce

The Smooth Original sauce is a good quality standard barbecue sauce. It has the sweet and sour notes which make a good, well-rounded sauce. This is a good store cupboard staple and one you could happily dip your chips in.

The Full Flavor Smokey smells nicely smokey. It’s got a pleasing hit of hickory smoke but it’s not too overpowering. It has a slightly sweeter note than the Smooth Original and will add a smokey barbecue flavour to whatever you pour it on.

The Smokey Sweet barbecue sauce is for barbecue sauce fans who like a sweeter, stickier sauce. For me this is a slightly more American style sauce, but I really enjoyed the sweet, smokey flavour notes in the sauce. 

The Tennessee Honey Barbecue Glaze is delicious. This is made with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Liqueur and is sweet and smokey with a big hit of salty soy. It’s very well-balanced and really hits the spot for me in terms of a good barbecue sauce. Use it to dip or pour, or you could use it to marinade chicken wings for the barbecue. 

Jack Daniel’s barbecue sauces are available from most major supermarkets. For more information visit their website.

Disclaimer: I was sent the four bottles of barbecue sauce for review purposes. All images and opinions are my own.

 Read my review of Jack Daniel’s hot & spicy barbecue sauces.

Review: Gousto Recipe Kit Boxes

This week we have been trying out the Gousto recipe kit boxes. We were sent a voucher code which got us a two meal box for two people to review. We have had and paid for Gousto boxes in the past, so we knew what to expect. 

When you order your Gousto box, you choose from the meals they have on offer that week. They have a broad range of recipes to choose from, all include nutritional information and have estimated cooking times. I’m a vegetarian and there were several interesting meal kits to choose from. I chose the Lentil Veggie Pie and the Egg Fried Vegetable Cashew Stir Fry. 

You can choose 2 or 4 portion options and they will box up virtually everything you need and deliver it to you. The ingredients they don’t include tend to be standard store cupboard things like salt, pepper and cooking oil. 

Review: Gousto Recipe Kit Boxes

My box arrived in great condition, it was packed with a cool pack and everything was fresh and vibrant. As I unpacked the box I checked everything off against the recipe card included. The recipe card for the stir fry had not been put in the box, so I tweeted Gousto and they sent me the link. Almost everything I needed for the lentil pie was there, save for the lettuce and the cheese. I’d not been able to check if everything for the stir fry was included. I discovered later that I was missing several key ingredients. 

The contents of the box, when stored correctly are good for up to six days. The day after the box arrived I decided to cook the lentil pie. I followed the instructions and put the pie together. I did end up adding some extra seasonings to boost the flavour – specifically mushroom ketchup and some chilli sauce. The box was also missing the cheese and I’d been sent 300g of potatoes and not the 400g specified in the recipe, so I had to use additional spuds. I was a little disappointed at this stage.

Review: Gousto Recipe Kit Boxes

Thankfully the lentil pie was an absolute triumph. It was utterly, utterly delicious. The portion size was more than ample for two people and even stretched to feed my six year old son who thoroughly enjoyed it too. We will be making this again!

 A few days later I wanted to throw a quick dinner together. I opted for the Egg Fried Vegetable Cashew Stir Fry. Using my iPad I looked at the recipe Gousto had sent me online and quickly realised I was missing both the rice and the honey. At this point I got a bit cross, but I had some basmati rice in the cupboard, but no honey which I had to substitute for agave syrup.

The recipe called for “fragrant basmati rice” and I wasn’t sure if the rice they should have sent would have included any flavourings or whatever, so I threw one of my own vegetable stock cubes into the rice as it cooked and hoped for the best. I followed the simple recipe online and produced a tasty stir fry. I very much enjoyed it but felt it needed more protein and next time I would have used two eggs instead of one. Or perhaps induced some tofu.

Review: Gousto Recipe Kit Boxes

It was a good stir fry and I enjoyed the crunchy cashews on the top. If I were to make it again I would change a few little things, more egg, some tofu, fractionally less chilli heat.

All in all I think I got a bit of a dud box. I was disappointed that so many key ingredients were missing. If I’d had the recipe card when I’d received the box I could have checked, but I’d trusted that everything I’d need, everything that was key to the recipe would be included and it wasn’t. I’d be pretty disappointed if I’d paid full price for the box and found so many things missing.

One other thing to note is that side dishes aren’t included. The lentil pie was just the pie. Any extra vegetables or accompaniments you might want on the side you will need to provide yourself. 

We have had Gousto boxes in the past. Last year my husband really wanted to cook some nice interesting meals for us. He tried a Gousto box for about six weeks and we really enjoyed trying new things and being a bit more creative with our meals at home. This is why this time I think I got a dud box, we’ve always been happy before.

Review: Gousto Recipe Kit Boxes

A Gousto box costs from £27.49 with free delivery. The cheapest box is for two meals for two people. It is not an inexpensive way to eat. But it is the kind of thing I would order if I was in a cooking rut and needed some inspiration, or if I were going on a self catering holiday and wanted some nice meals for a few days. It’s not something we can justify on a weekly basis, for us a Gousto box would be a treat.

Despite my disappointment with my last Gousto box, I would say that we almost certainly will order them again in the future. Like I said, falling into a cooking rut is a regular thing. I often cook the same family meals over and over until we are all bored stiff of them. A Gousto box is a great way to liven up your meal times. But you do really need to double check that they’ve sent everything they should have.

Grab a £20 discount on each of your 1st and 2nd Gousto orders, on any sized box, meaning the 1st & 2nd boxes could cost £7.49 each. The discount code to use is TORNADO. You can find out which meals are available this week on the Gousto website. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I was sent a voucher code to purchase a Gousto box, all images and opinions are our own. We were not been compensated for this blog post.

Three Meat-Free Monday ideas from Goodlife Foods

As the head chef in our house, it falls to me to put dinner on the table most nights. I’m a vegetarian, but the boys aren’t and I like to have a balance of meals through the week which suit us all. Maybe three nights a week they get something meaty and the rest of the time they will happily tuck into something we can all eat. I’m always on the lookout for meat-free Monday ideas to keep things interesting for us all.

This week we’ve been trying out some of the vegetarian meals from Goodlife Foods and in the process discovered some great Meat-Free Monday ideas.

Meat Free Monday ideas from Goodlife Foods

We loved this wholemeal pita stuffed with lovely crunchy salad and chickpea falafel with a side of slaw. These Moroccan style chickpea falafel from Goodlife are packed with spices and are just 39 calories each; making them perfect for a light meal. I always think falafel are really versatile, my freezer is rarely without a packet.

Meat Free Monday ideas from Goodlife Foods

Another favourite from the range was this Mushroom and Spinach Kiev. The Kiev is packed with mushrooms and spinach which hides an oozing creamy garlic and cheese sauce, and is coated in a crunchy seeded breadcrumbs. Although it’s not a stunner on the plate, it is absolutely delicious and just garlicky and cheesy enough. Served with some of our favourite veg – sweet potato mash, French beans and chantenay carrots, this was a cracking meal we could feel virtuous about. Each Kiev is 290 calories, so this was a good meal we didn’t need to feel bad about.

Meat Free Monday ideas from Goodlife Foods

My own personal favourite was the French Bean and Spinach sausages. They are so flavoursome, even my pork sausage loving boy tucked into them and demanded seconds. The sausages are filled with French beans, petit pois, fresh spinach, a pinch of nutmeg and a mild crumbly Wensleydale cheese. 

They are incredibly versatile. I served them with buttery mashed potato, French beans, garden peas and veggie gravy. They’d be fantastic in a wrap or sandwich, or thrown in with some creamy pesto pasta and they’re only 86 calories per sausage. They have lots of other sausage flavours too, I need to track down their beetroot and feta for a start!

Three Meat Free Monday ideas from Goodlife Foods

Goodlife Foods have been creating vegetarian sausages, vegan burgers, vegetable based kievs and falafels in the UK for over 25 years. They work with framers across the UK to sow, grow and harvest the best vegetables at their peak, so they know that their veg is fresh and tasty.

Whether you’re having a Meat-Free Monday, feeling flexitarian or you’re committed to a full-time vegetarian diet, Goodlife have a really interesting and tasty selection of frozen foods to help you mix things up and create great family meals.

Three Meat-Free Monday ideas from Goodlife Foods

I’ve been buying Goodlife products whenever I’ve seen them for years. You can find them in the freezer section in Booths, Waitrose, Ocado and Iceland, amongst other places. I’ve tended to keep them just for me; but now I’ve seen my boys tuck into them with gusto, I guess I’m buying them for the whole family now. It’s lovely to see such dedicated carnivores tucking into a very obviously veggie sausage and asking for more!

You can find out more about Goodlife Foods including finding your local stockist and their full range on their website.

Note: I was sent these products for review purposes, all images and opinions are my own.